Best Tips to Help with Toilet Training for Individuals with Autism

Toilet training for individuals with autism is an important issue we need to address to help them with functional life skills. They may need extra time to learn this skill or be taught using different methods to help them with this skill.

When working as an occupational therapist, I would get so many questions about toilet training and how to help their child learn how to use the toilet independently. To be honest, I was also overwhelmed by these questions and I wasn't always sure what to do. I had never actually toilet trained anyone. My son is too young to start this process and my mom helped my brother with this skill. This can be a big and scary skill for some children and they may need extra time to learn how to do it. I have done some of my own research over the years and these are some of the tips that I have come up with that have been successful for some children.

I also want you to keep in mind, these are tips and strategies that may be helpful for some. If you are looking for more professional advice, reach out to your medical doctor and professionals for additional support in this area.

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Best Tips to Help with Toilet Training for Individuals with Autism

Why do children with autism have difficulties with toilet training?

  • Children with autism may simply need more time to learn a new skill.
  • They may have difficulty breaking established habits and routines. They have always used a diaper, and they may not understand the reason why they don't need to use it anymore.
  • They may have difficulty understanding the feeling of when they need to use the bathroom. From an occupational therapy standpoint, they may not have inner body sensory awareness also called interoception.
  • They may have difficulty communicating to you that they need to use the bathroom.
  • They may have developed anxiety around toileting since this is a new skill.
  • They may have sensory difficulties with using the bathroom with loud sounds such as flushing the toilet or even the smells of using the bathroom.

These are just some ideas or reasons why children with autism may be having a hard time with learning toilet training. There could be other reasons as well.

If you are working with a child with autism, try to keep these considerations in mind and try to figure out what might be one area that they are having a hard time with from listed above.

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Best Tips to Help with Toilet Training for Individuals with Autism

Below are some of the best tips that I have come across or learned about to help teach toilet training for individuals with autism.

  • Tip 1: Do they understand when they need to use the restroom?

    • Can the child identify when they need to go to the restroom?
    • Can they communicate with you that they need to use the restroom?
    • This would be the first step when identifying if they are ready to start toilet training with you.
    • Check out this free developmental checklist from the Functional Skills for Kids Group!
  • Tip 2: Use specific directions the child will understand and give one direction at a time.

    • When teaching the steps for toileting, it is important to use specific directions when teaching each step. This will help make the directions more clear for the child.
    • Also only give one direction at a time and see if they understand the direction by having them repeat it back to you or having them show you the direction.
  • Tip 3: Try using Visuals to help teach the steps

  • Tip 4: You could try watching videos or reading books about toileting.

    • Do they have a favorite TV show they like to watch such a sesame street or Daniel Tiger? Do they have characters they like to watch on YouTube? Do they like to listen to music to learn steps? See if they have created a video talking about toilet training.
    • Here are some videos I found on YouTube about Toilet Training:
  • Tip 5: Try using Social Stories to talk about the new routine and to show visuals of the steps involved in the process.

  • Tip 6: Try using words such as “first then” to communicate the steps of the process.

    • Use words that help make the process clear to the child. Using the words First Then when explaining the steps could help the child understand the sequencing of the steps.
  • Tip 7: Try using wet wipes instead of toilet paper when wiping to help with sensory aspects when wiping.

    • Using Wet Wipes instead of toilet paper can help ease with the wiping process as it is a smoother feeling.
  • Tip 8: Try modeling and demonstrating how to complete certain steps when teaching.

    • Showing the child or individual how to complete a step may be more beneficial than just telling or showing them a picture.
  • Tip 9: Try propping feet up on a step stool or wastebasket when sitting on the toilet to help with sitting position when on the toilet.

    • When the child or individual is sitting on the toilet, they may need or want their feet supported if they cannot touch the ground. Additionally getting feet up and supported may help get them in a better position on the toilet to use the restroom, especially for a bowel movement.
    • Check out the Squatty Potty on Amazon to help with positioning on the toilet. I personally have used this item and have felt it helped with bowel movements.
  • Tip 10: Set up the bathroom environment with sensory strategies to help with success.

    • Think about the noises in the bathroom:
      • does flushing upset them?
      • does the sound of running water upset them?
      • Try over the ear headphones to wear during times when noises affect them.
      • Think about the smells in the bathroom. Do they have a hard time when having a bowel movement?
      • Try using essential oil smells rubbed under their nose to help ease the smell.
      • Have scented spray available for them to spray during that time.
  • Tip 11: Try using a visual timer or Ipad app to help with staying on the toilet for a certain amount of time.

    • Try using a visual timer to help show an amount of time to help the child stay on the toilet for a longer duration to try and go.
    • You could use a favorite Ipad game or app that the child enjoys playing to help keep them engaged long enough to sit on the toilet for a long enough duration to actually use the toilet.

Additional Resources

Below are additional resources I have come across for toilet training from other websites and blogs that I think may be helpful for you!

Check out our Toileting Hygiene Products on Teachers Pay Teachers!

Check out our blog post filled with real-life activity ideas to help with toilet training! 


Getting Kids Ready for Toileting and Toilet Training Blog Posts from the Functional Skills for Kids Team:
  1.  Tips & Tricks for Teaching Hand Washing – Growing Hands On Kids
  2.  The Secret to Lower Body Dressing – The Inspired Treehouse
  3. Toys to Help With Getting Dressed – The OT Toolbox
  4. Morning Routine Checklists – Your Kids OT
  5. How to Modify Your Child’s Dressing Routine – Miss Jaime OT


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The Last Thing You Need to Know about Toilet Training

  • Understand that this is a process and they are learning a new skill. This will take time and patience for everyone involved.
  • Find your child's strengths and work with those strengths to help teach them the skills for toileting.
  • I would love to know if any of these tips have helped you or if you would have any other tips you could add to the list in the comments below!

Best Tips to Help with Toilet Training for Individuals with Autism Best Tips to Help with Toilet Training for Individuals with Autism