Last Sunday, I changed Oscar’s nappy around 2pm. And that was that. He decided then and there, that he was starting potty training. No warning, no asking. He just refused to put a nappy back on and then decided the rest of his clothes were coming off too. He’s never done that before, which told me he was serious. My boy has always had a way of communicating without words and on Sunday he told me in no uncertain terms he was ready to try a life without nappies.
Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had tentative attempts before, which have usually resulted in wee all over the carpet and he’s been able to occasionally stand and pee over the potty for a while now. But this Sunday, he just sat himself down and did what he needed to do. We were slightly blown away to be honest. Monday was similar, he increased in confidence and as long as he could see the potty, he would use it, whether I was there or not. Now he doesnt even need to see it, he just needs to know where it is. Oh and have no pants on. But we’re working on that!
So you might ask why did we wait so long to start? Oscar is 3 years and 4 months, which by potty training standards is pretty old. For a child on the standard developmental trajectory. But if you read me regularly you’ll know Oscar’s development is on an Autistic trajectory. He’s doing it all, just in his own time. And much as everything else in his life, he was always going to do it when he was ready and not before. But also I was afraid. His lack of speech and his inability to tell me when he needed to go always put me off trying.
I also think I was lucky. No one ever said I ‘should’ be potty training him by now. Lots of people I’ve spoken to have had hugely unsupportive friends and family when it comes to potty training, getting pressure to start before they feel ready from all sides. Not me. My sister in law said to be me when Oscar turned two, “don’t ever start before you’re ready, it wont work and it’ll set you both back”. And I guess we heeded that advice. If you’re feeling pressured by anyone, well that sucks. Smile at those people, then roundly ignore them. You and your child will know when the time is right.
Anyway this is what I’ve learnt about potty training Oscar this week. I’d like to say this is what I’ve learnt about potty training or what I’ve learnt about potty training an autistic toddler, but really, as with anything, my experience is just that; mine:
- I think the reason Oscar came to the conclusion to start potty training when he did, might have had something to do with the nappies he was wearing. From his earliest days he’s been in Pampers Baby Dry, day and night. They worked for us, we never had any leakages and so we just stuck with what we knew. Trouble was they were so absorbent that they remained too comfy for too long. A few months ago we switched from nappies to pull ups and from Pampers Baby Dry to Carrefour, a cheap, French brand we got from Ocado. They worked well during the day, but filled up quicker, and were definitely not as comfortable. Which was good. It meant Oscar was much more aware of what was going on down there. It wasn’t until he started wearing these that he started to tell me when he’d done a poo. Basically if they’re too comfy why are they ever going to want to change?
- So far being at home and with no trousers or pants on has worked best. Having something on his bottom half seems to confuse him. Had I had any say in when we started I probably would have chosen a week when we had no outings (rather than a week with several planned trips out). If you can stay in, with a semi naked baby for a week, I would.
- You get totally fit running up and down the stairs to empty that bad boy. Unless you have a down stairs toilet that is. And lucky you if you do!
- Bribery is all well and good if your child is open to a little ‘encouragement’ in the form of their favourite sweets or a reward chart or whatever, but mine is inscrutable. I knew he was, so why I bought some Pez sweets hoping to meter them out every time he did a wee, I’ll never know. He just took the dispenser off me and choffed the lot. Ahh well.
- Everyone who’s been through it, has done potty training differently. Even within the same family. There is no ‘one way’ to do it, but it’s like anything to do with parenting; take all the advice and try what works for you.
- If you’ve got a boy he is never going to stop playing with his penis, willie, thing, whatever you guys call it, as long as he lives. And potty training is when they’ll start their love affair with their manhood, especially if you do the semi naked for a week thing. Deal with it. That, my friends, is never going to change, no matter how much you asked them to leave it alone. I know. Because grown men have told me. And who am I to argue?
- If you , like me have a boy stock up on the following: little boy briefs (or other desired pants) , jogging bottoms, shorts or other pull up trousers and washing powder. You’re going to be running that washing machine every day my friend (like you don’t already *sigh*). If you have a girl you probably need slightly different clothing, but I doubt you’ll be running the machine any less.
- If you don’t have a downstairs loo (see item 2), you might want to invest in two potties. I got super sick of making sure the potty where he was, so invested in a second potty to keep upstairs.
- We have yet to move onto actually getting him to use the actual loo yet (although he does love emptying the number 2s down the loo and flushing it away, which is a start I guess). We have a bathroom step and plan to invest in a double toilet seat. As his bum is so tiny I figure it’ll be useful for quite some time and the removable seats I’ve tried in the past have been too wobbly. As he dislikes me helping him in anyway, something I can feel confident in him using alone is probably not a bad thing.
- Oscar doesn’t respond particularly well to being asked over and over if he needs the loo. He just knows when he does and asking him all the time resulted in nothing but a tried mummy.If your child isn’t particularly verbal you’re going to have to watch for other signs and if you can use some kind of PECS or symbol exchange more power to you.
Potty training any child can be difficult and stressful. Potty a child on the spectrum can come with it’s own challenges. Sensorially it can be a very unnerving experience and it changes a massive part of the routine a child may rely on. But really, you can’t do anything they aren’t prepared to do. Listen to them, encourage them in any way you seem fit, but take your time. And buy wine. Not for any stains. For you.