Man oh man – I feel like I could write a novel on this subject. We have been struggling with getting Monkey potty-trained for well over a year. Last summer, J and I took a week off from work and decided to do potty training bootcamp (aka the three day method). We had a bit of success, but it was not at all consistent, and after huge amounts of accidents, J and I got frustrated and gave up. Because Monkey’s communication level at that time wasn’t really there, she didn’t know how to communicate that she had to go. We were using potty chairs at the time, and sometimes she made it on her own, but it was a crapshoot. There were days she would make it at daycare, and other days when it was accident after accident.
J and I should have stayed the course, but it was too stressful on everyone, so we decided to put it on hold. I know we should have started earlier, but one of our goals for the summer was to make sure Monkey was potty trained in time for school this September. Our ABA therapists had us take some data to figure out how often she was going, and a plan was built around that. I know that toileting a child on the spectrum can be challenging – and I am not an expert on the subject, but this is what worked well for us, and I wanted to share so I could help others.
Monkey’s first full day was at her therapy centre and she was put on the toilet every 10 minutes. We had a special “bag of fun” made up which was only used in the bathroom and contained some highly motivating items for her. These included: bubbles, blue balls (she LOVES balls and anything dark blue), favourite books, a soundboard which made noise, her toy cellphone, and gave a list of some favourite YouTube videos like baby shark.
She was put on every 10 minutes, which we were nervous about because we didn’t want her to associate the bathroom with things she didn’t want to do (which is why the highly motivating items were included). She would get the most highly motivating item (an m&m) when she used the potty successfully. The was only put in pants and underwear, and pull-ups were only used for naps or night time sleep. The first day she had 4 accidents (but started realizing that she was wet). The second day at daycare we were nervous about ,but she only had two accidents. Gradually we began to increase the time interval and still rewarding with the m&m and giving lots of praise when she used the potty.
After 4 days, she initiated a couple of times, and managed to hold it and make it to the bathroom in time. After a week, the accidents had stopped and she was using the toilet regularly (not initiating all the time, but could go about 45 minutes when holding it). It has now been 2 weeks…and (knock on wood)…she is potty trained. She has initiated a little more often, but we are still working on that part. We had a long drive in the car yesterday (about an hour each way), and there were no problems. She has even woken up in the morning with her diaper dry a few times – after a 11-12 hour stretch of sleep!
Clearly, she was ready for this, and it was hardly painful (unlike the last time). Last summer, we did not have Monkey’s diagnosis and that is likely why we were pushing potty training. I have learned now more than ever to trust my gut to figure out when she is ready for things. It is natural to compare your child to other children their age for milestones, but this is also dangerous. She will have her own timeline for doing things, and it doesn’t make them any less amazing when she does. She has come so far in a few months and her communication skills are improving every day.
J and I will be attending a “More Than Words” workshop, geared towards getting children on the spectrum to have more functional communication. We will be working with other parents and a speech language pathologist to have some training workshops, and some sessions with Monkey to apply the skills we have learned. We are hoping to learn new tactics and skills so we can communicate with Monkey a little more.
We are so so proud of this major skill though! This is huge, and I am happy that come September she should have mastery of it. One major check off the list!!! Now to wean her off the m&ms…..