Overview of Toilet Training

Becoming independent and successful in toileting is an important milestone for young children. Children with disabilities may have delays or impairments in a number of areas that interfere with successful toilet training (e.g., communication, adaptive skills, motivation). Children who have trouble with transitions and/or new routines (e.g., many children with autism spectrum disorders) may have particular difficulties with toilet training. Three research-based toileting procedures are presented on the following pages, but before engaging in any toilet training procedure, assessing child performance and behaviors is necessary.

How do I know if my child is ready for toilet training, and what are the first steps?

EBIP_toilet training_5Parents and teachers often ask, “How do I know if my child is ready to be potty trained?” While there is no definitive age in which a child should be potty trained, you should ensure that the child possesses the necessary skills to be successful. Before beginning any potty training intervention, ensure that the child does not have any medical issues that could interfere with toileting? If so, consult a physician before beginning any program. Then ask yourself the following:

  1. Is the child aware of being wet/dry?
  2. Does the child have long periods where he/she remains dry though out the day?
  3. Does your child tolerate sitting on the toilet?
  4. Is your child able to pull up his/her own pants and underwear?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, consider waiting to potty train your child. It is important that the child possesses the mentioned prerequisite skills in order to be successful. If your child is not yet ready, consider the following practices that can prepare your child for potty training:

  1. Visit the restroom throughout the day, even when your child is in diapers. Ensure your child is not afraid of the toilet or the toilet flushing.
  2. Have your child practice sitting on the toilet for short periods of time, and deliver praise and attention while your child does so.
  3. Help your child practice pulling up/down his/her pants

These practices will help the child become familiar with potty routines and develop a positive attitude around usingEBIP_toilet training_4 the restroom. After developing the routine, then begin toilet training.

If you have determined that your child is ready for potty training, it is necessary to take data before introducing any potty routine. This allows you to determine which procedure is best for the child, as well as give you more information about the child’s elimination habits. Check the child’s diaper every half-hour and record if the child is dry, wet, or soiled. Do this for one week prior to any potty program. Set a timer to reminder yourself to check often. Once you’ve collected data, consider which potty training program is right for your child. You can prepare the child for training by talking about the system prior to starting and talking positively about the process.

To cite this page (APA 6th edition):

  • Harbin, E.R., Ledford, J.R., & Chazin, K.T. (2016). Overview of toilet training. In Evidence-based instructional practices for young children with autism and other disabilities. Retrieved from http://vkc.mc.vanderbilt.edu/ebip/overview-of-toilet-training