Toilet Training for children with special needs

Toilet training is one of the biggest topics to all parents. It is a difficult task, whether your child is on the spectrum or not. Trust me, I had to train my typically developing child and it is no easy task. But through this process I learnt a few tips which I would like to share with parents who are planning to start toilet training.


When to start?

I personally googled a lot online and read through all the signs that a child could be ready for toilet training. However, what I realised was, a lot of emphasis was put on the child but the parents should also consider their readiness. Toilet training involves a lot of patience, planning, mess, wet pants and also wet floor. Consider all these factors before starting because it would be harder if the consistency is broken.


Introducing terms

I started working on toilet training by introducing the terms. Try to look for behavioral or facial cues when your child is releasing himself/ herself. Teach the words e.g. “Pass urine” or “Pass Motion” (some parents prefer “pee pee” and “poo poo”). When you see your child releasing themselves, you can say “Name, pass urine?”/ “Name, pass motion?” Parents can also create awareness by pointing out that the nappy is wet or soiled. Keep labelling and using the same terms until your child starts to use the words too.


Choose a potty

There are many types of potties in the market. Choose one based on your understanding of your child. I chose one that makes a cheering sound when it senses urine. However, this is not recommended if your child is very sensitive to sudden noise.



Design / plan a reinforcement for releasing themselves on the potty. For me, I drew a reward chart with my son’s potty in it. I gave my son a sticker to paste it on the chart whenever he used the potty. Parents who are training their children with special needs can start by reinforcing the behaviour of sitting on the potty. While working on the sitting behaviour, if the child release himself/ herself in the potty, parents can take this chance to praise and make a great deal out of it. Have fun being animated!


Developing a toilet routine

Children with ASD like predictability. Hence, planning a toilet routine will help to reduce resistance during this training process. Parents can also build upon the desire of predictability to develop a successful toilet training routine. Observe your child for a few days to determine a pattern in your child’s bowel movements. This information will help you to plan a successful toilet routine with an increased likelihood of them releasing themselves during the training.

Use a visual schedule to teach the steps to use to toilet e.g. take off pants, sit on the toilet, take a wee or poo, put on pants and lastly, flush.


Sit or Stand (for boys)?

I taught my son to sit because it is difficult for them to differentiate between the two when you first started toilet training. It worked very well because my son got trained for both unconsciously.


Speak to your family and your child’s teacher

One of the hurdles I faced during toilet training was the lack of communication and teamwork. At one point, I felt that the progress became stagnant because I was the only person working on it. I arranged a meeting with my son’s teachers (he spends almost the whole day in the childcare centre) and updated them about our progress. His school started to work on it after that and he mastered the skills within two months.


Additional Notes:

During the process, there will definitely be accidents. Refrain from scolding or telling off as that will create resistance and negative behaviours towards the toilet training. Children will also start developing fear from releasing themselves and it increases stress. All I said when my child had an accident was “oh dear, please go to the potty next time” and then cleaned up the mess and changed him.


Parents can also use social stories to go through and introduce the steps to use the toilet. It is recommended to use actual photos of the objects and places to familiarize the child with the natural environment.


Written by: Eileen Su

Therapy Kidz Singapore


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