Potty Training Non-Verbal Autism

When Tristan was about 4 years old and I had a question for another mom, “How will I be able to potty train a non-verbal child?”  She looked at me and said, “just like any other kid!”  She said it so matter of fact that it kind of stopped me in my tracks.  She was not a mom to a special needs child.  However, she did daycare and previously had special need kids in her care.  So I took what she said to heart.  Then I pondered on it for a while.   I was still stuck on the non-verbal part of the equation.

Then Tristan went to kindergarten and I can remember this conversation like it was yesterday.  I had a meeting with his community-based teacher, Mrs. S,  and the behavior specialist.

Quickly the topic turned to potty training.  Mrs. S looked at me and said, “It is time to train Tristan to use the toilet.  We know he is ready because any child that can change his own diaper IS ready.”

Then we all laughed.  A few times Tristan changed his own diaper at home.  I didn’t know he had done this at school!

Mrs. S went on to say I wouldn’t like the plan but this would work for Tristan.   She said to set a timer for 5 minutes and track when he goes. It was agreed upon at that meeting that both the school and home would work on this. It was a team effort!


At home, I took him to the bathroom every 5 minutes.   I created a tracking sheet to figure out when he went.  On a piece of paper,

assorted silver colored pocket watch lot selective focus photo
Photo by Giallo on Pexels.com

I just jotted down the time and noted if he went to the bathroom.

We lived life in 5-minute increments. (Try living your day in 5-minute increments…the day will fly by!)  Very quickly everyone saw a pattern and it no time Tristan was toilet trained.

For the communication component, we taught Tristan to use American Sign Language.  We simply used the sign for “potty.”

It did take a long time for him to not have accidents.  However, most kids have this issue for a while too. Not having to buy or change diapers was a great motivator to keep training him to use the bathroom.  It was great that we achieved this milestone and it was well worth the effort!

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