Strategies for toilet training a child with autism

I currently have an 8 year old child with autism in my class who has neither urinated or defecated in the toilet before. He is an energetic, non verbal child who has an understanding of when we is doing a wee or poo and so, this made me eager to help him get him out of nappies as soon as possible. To start with, I made him the following visual schedule, which I made using free symbols from the website Visual Aids for Learning (see my post on free symbol resource websites here).

toilet visual schedule

When we regularly take him to the toilet, we refer him to the visual schedule, so he must look at the symbol and then follow through that action. To begin with, this was with a physical prompt from the supporting adult. The physical prompts were then gradually reduced to verbal and gestural prompts as the child began doing more himself. We are 4 weeks in and he is doing these steps with mostly no physical prompts and just a simple verbal or gestural prompt for each step. We have been taking him to the toilet at very regular (every 45 minutes) intervals throughout the day (on his visual timetable) and he has access at all times to a toilet symbol to request to use the toilet. This same routine is happening at home and he has the exact same visual schedule which is being used at home. Good communication and consistency between home and school is very important for toilet training.

This is all very positive, however the child is yet to wee or a poo in the toilet. In fact, he is holding it in all day and over the last 4 weeks he has urinated in his pants only about 3 times. This is most likely because he has been so used to doing a wee and poo in his nappy and now that the nappy has gone, he is holding it in. My next plan of action is to show him some more visuals of using the toilet and hopefully catching a wee in the toilet soon. An update will shortly follow!!

1 month on update:

It has been 1 month since I wrote this post and 2 months since we started toilet training and I am happy to say that the child is now urinating in the toilet and also requesting to use the toilet through symbol or sign! Yay!

The consistency of undergoing the same process of using the visual symbols and waiting for the child to do each step as well as modelling key signs and language have been a great help. He has yet to poo in the toilet but we will keep working on this.

How has your experience of toilet training been? Please post a comment!

Attention bucket for children with autism

After using the idea of an ‘attention bucket’ (which was passed on to me by colleagues at school) I looked further into the attention autism approach and found this inspiring video of a talk by the founder, Gina Davies.

The attention autism approach focuses on developing attention and listening skills and giving the children “an irresistible invitation to learn”.

Read more about Attention Autism here.

An attention bucket is a bucket full of motivating and exciting toys and gadgets which will be of high interest to the children. Gina suggests that the adult in front of the children with the attention bucket must be the most interesting thing in the room so everything else must be out of sight. I am currently thinking of new toys and gadgets to put into my attention bucket but this will depend on my new class. At the moment I have wind up moving toys, light up toys, a spinning top, toys that make noises and toys with balloons (e.g. balloon cars). Here are some of the items in my bucket:

The adult with the attention bucket demonstrates one toy at a time in front of the children, for example, winding up a toy snake and then watching the snake move. The reward must be intrinsic to the activity – the enjoyment of watching the snake.  If a child gets up out of their seat they are gently, non verbally guided back. This is to encourage attention and listening skills. Gina suggests using 5 toys in each short session. With my last class I usually had an attention bucket session once every morning and once every afternoon. Attention bucket activities are also good to use to refocus the group.

Related post: Attention Autism stage 1: attention bucket video and comments from creator Gina Davies

There is a lot of great information on Gina’s website Attention Autism

Many of my sensory attention bucket resources came from Sensory Toy Warehouse