My neuro-typical daughter Sadie is 13 but I can remember, almost as if it were yesterday, what it was like potty training her. Why? Because I didn’t do it.
I’d like to take all the credit (and I have multiple times) but the truth is my daughter was potty training at 18 months because she’s a daycare-child from birth and that’s just how they roll.
I sent 15 pairs of panties, and 15 pairs of pants and in 5 days my cute 18 month old daughter who liked to sing her ABC’s at full-volume, eat her cheerios two-fisted, and slept with a blankie, was sitting on the toilet going number 1 and number 2 without a single accident. I’ve never looked back.
Potty training is a little different with my son, however.
Ryder was diagnosed with autism at 2 years and 4 months – right around the age most kids have either been trained, or in the process of. But at that time, Ryder couldn’t even point his finger. Or clap his hands. Or wave goodbye.
While potty training should have been at the bottom of my priority list, there was this desire to be a typical parent. For Ryder to be a typical kid. So a few months after the therapists started working with him – I started.
And then I stopped.
Who knew, but potty training a child who can’t speak or have the motor coordination to clap, point, or wave, can be difficult. Weird.
I realized that with every other challenge now facing us I needed to take potty training step by step as well. Ryder isn’t Sadie. And he isn’t typical. Potty training didn’t need to be important.
And now, at five years old, I think it’s time to try again. What I learned hopefully can help others facing this big step with their autistic child too:
Wait until he’s ready. Aside from just being emotionally ready, they also need to be physically ready. One really important factor I didn’t consider the first time around was Ryder having the ability to pull his pants and underwear off., not just pull out his penis. Guess what? While pee puddles are hilarious for a 3 year old, cleaning it up can be absolutely disgusting. Especially when it’s in the kitchen, the carpet, and the bathroom sink. All at the same time.
Ignore what the other parents are doing. Parents of neuro- typical kids love to talk about potty training – how they did it and how long it took them. It drove me bat-shit crazy listening to some complain it took a whole two weeks to train their 2 year old. Listen bitch, I am going on 3 years…complain to someone else.
Everyone needs to be on board. When I initially started training Ryder, I started at home. I let daycare know and asked for tips, but his provider didn’t have a clue how to back me up. I’d send Ryder in a pull-up, and he’d come home in a Minnie Mouse diaper a size too small. This time I’m organized: Ryder’s daycare, his BI, his speech and OT, his supported childcare worker and his third cousin once removed have schedules, pull ups, and instructions. This Mom ain’t missing anything.
You need to be consistent. If one day Ryder is in a diaper, we’re back to square one. Every single day has to be exactly the same as the last one. EXACTLY. For real, don’t mistake me on this one. Every day has to be exactly the same. I can’t stress this one enough.
Be patient. Patience is something I lack, and having an autistic child warrants a significant amount of it. Remember that if one day your autistic child goes #2 on the toilet, he probably won’t again for at least another few days. And if he pees over the balcony, he’ll probably do it three more times that day.
Have a sense of humor. When he poops in the kitty litter, pees into the dog’s water dish, squats over the flower beds, and flashes the neighbours, just remember that potty training is a messy (and funny) business. Be sure to stock up on paper towels and baby wipes. Accept it. Laugh it off whenever possible. And give everyone you know who is participating a nice bottle of red as a parting gift. This is also important.