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Potty Training in Children with Autism

Difficulty with potty training is common among many children with autism. The level of difficulty may correlate with the severity of autism symptoms, but it may also be a mystery. Because toileting readiness comes with development, not chronological age, a child with autism may be later to respond to attempts at toilet training than their typically developing peers.

There are many potential reasons for toileting delays in children with autism, including:

  • Difficulty breaking routines, like using a diaper
  • Slower acquisition of new skills, especially since opportunities to practice are limited by the child’s need to evacuate
  • Anxiety due to sensory sensitivities, like bright bathroom lights or the cold temperature of the toilet
  • Communication delay

Communication issues, especially, can create challenges. It may be difficult for a child with autism to communicate when they need to go, either verbally or nonverbally. It may also be difficult for a child with autism to understand instructions.

In some cases, challenges with potty training may lead to constipation or unwanted behaviors like smearing. ABA therapy can help with toilet training by identifying the specific underlying issues that present challenges for the child. A trained therapist can offer advice for toileting which is individualized to the child’s needs.

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