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Autism Mommy Swami #11: PTT or Potty Training Trouble

Posted Jun 25 2012 6:56pm

Dear Swami,

I am SO FREAKIN’  frustrated with potty training. The ‘special ed pre-K teacher who has been doing this for years’ is DOING THE SAME THING OVER AND OVER (the definition of insanity) to try to get B to pee on the potty. There’s alot of info out there. We are struggling. We also have 11 and a half year old dogs who are struggling with potty & a 6 year old who cries “Will you wipe me now? ” No. please. At least he can ask. At least he was easy to potty train (when awake) I’m just waiting for my husband to need help. Oy and Vey. I have  BCBA behaviorist person consultant who gave me a chart to put his progress on.  Wants me to spend hundreds on a potty alarm for his pullups. There’s barely any progress! Did you have trouble potty training Nat? Just curious. Many have no problem at all potty training their kids falling somewhere on the spectrum. I do.  No rush on this, but thought I would ask.  You know…they make diapers for very tiny ones and big old adults but not many options for the in betweeners. Running out of time??
Thanks so much!


Dear Jewels,

Potty training is the worst. Just the worst. I had trouble training two out of three of my sons –  and it was awful. We had years and years of #2 accidents way after they had peeing down, and I had no idea what to do, despite a lot of expertise around me. Never heard of potty alarms, what will they think of next? That sounds scary. No, all we had was a Cabbage Patch kid fake little toilet that actually made pee sounds when you pushed down on the seat, and it could make a flusher sound, too! It kept at least the Swami entertained for hours. We had books — mostly really stupid boring ones that also didn’t work, and we had reinforcers galore. Every day he would go the window in his room, look out, and drop one in his pants. Even with the potty and me right there. It just wasn’t happening.  By the time Nat was five, I was at my wit’s end.

Then we went to Disneyworld and when we got to the hotel, I showed him the ultimate reinforcer: the Cadbury chocolate creme egg.  (By the way, this is all in my first book, Making Peace With Autism.) I then showed him the bathroom. I said that when he pooped in there, he would get the egg.

He went in and pooped in the toilet, first time. Got the egg, and after that, forevermore.

Was it that it finally sunk in? Was it the extra great reinforcer? Was it the new environment? Was it that he is so literal, God bless him, that he thought I was telling him to go and do it right then and there! Or was it that some neuron fired?

Or was it that he was five, not 2.5 or 3.6 or whatever the damn books say we should be when we are at last willing to let go of what feels like a part of ourselves? It’s hard for me to believe that any of us get toilet trained! But here’s the thing: developmental disorder/delay means developmental delay! AKA some things will take longer!!!!  So can’t we wait until a child is developmentally more ready?  I don’t think enough can be said about developmental readiness, of late blooming, of late intervention. Everyone does early intervention, and that’s great, but if it doesn’t take at that point, then what? People still think there’s a tiny window of brain elasticity until 5, or 10, or whatever, and let me tell you, that just ain’t true. Our guys are often late bloomers. Yet the schools and daycares insist that they be potty trained by a certain age. Whatever happened to accommodations? And by the way, didn’t Freud tell us way back when not to be too hyper about potty training?

You can see that I have little or no expertise in this matter, I am only answering as the Swami, which means I am consulting my own experience with my own children, which happens to go pretty far back. The part that the Swami can help with is encouraging you to consult yourself for the truth, to go with your own gut and expertise about your child. In my experience, charting stuff had its place — like when I was a kid and quit sucking my thumb using a turtle calendar I drew — but that’s not what worked for us. Probably some combination of coaxing, guilting, some show of my impatience, and much rewarding is what did it. But I just don’t know.

I think that the best thing the Swami has to offer you is to see that all things pass — literally and figuratively. So keep that sense of humor I see in your letter, keep talking to experts, read, ask other moms, but the thing is, to some degree, children do what they do and usually they figure it out eventually.



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