Those who are parent will agree that potty training is not an easy task, so imagine the added challenge when you are teaching this to a child with Autism. The other day I started (once again), potty training with my middle son, who is now 6 years old. My plan was to focus first on staying seated, and then emphasize more on the actual peeing.
The first time was very difficult because he didn’t want to enter the bathroom. So much time has passed since our last attempt that I think he had just forgotten about the whole routine. I had to carry him all the way to the toilet. Finally I got him inside the bathroom but then he didn’t want to sit on the toilet. I have to use one of my self-developed body restrain techniques to be able to keep him seated. When you have a child with Autism, you have to learn untraditional ways to hold, carry, and restrain him, for two main reasons: to avoid hurting him and to avoid getting hurt yourself.
I remember one day while waiting in a doctor’s office, there was this kid making it difficult for his mother. He was behaving so badly, that his mother toke him outside the office and for some reason into the bathroom. Understanding her situation, my wife went to her and found her all bitten and crying desperately. She offered her my help, to which I agreed when the situation was explained to me. When I got to the bathroom, I found the boy on the floor and the mother crying and unable to calm or just take him out. I then introduce myself to the women and began the task of grabbing the boy with my (once again), self-developed body restrain techniques. I did receive a slap in my face at the beginning of the process, but I manage to hold him in a secure way for both of us and take him all the way to their car in the parking lot. When it was all over, the women ask me “thanks, where did you learn to do that”, to which I replied, “a lot of practice with my own son, don’t worry”.
It is true; nobody teaches you how to deal everyday tasks with a Son with Autism. You have to live them in order to open you mind to the learning process. For example; how difficult could it be to get a haircut, after all you just have to sit there and let another one do the working. Well, don’t underestimate the task no matter how ordinary or simple it may seem. Let’s analyze it for a moment from an Autistic perspective. First I have to go to an unfamiliar place, to sit with a bunch of strangers and wait until I’m called. Then when they finally call me, I have to sit on a chair that moves freely to the sides and make me feel unstable. I can be very sensitive when it comes to stand or sit in a steady place. In my case I’m fortunate that my father sits on the chair and I sit on his lap so I can feel more secure. Then a stranger approaches to me with scissors, which I know can cut me, or with some kind of machine that produces an annoying vibrating sound. If that isn’t enough, the stranger start cutting my hair, which in case you don’t know, I can be so hypersensitive that even cutting my hair can hurt me. Can you imagine that? They can even feel when their hair is being cut? Even for me, his dad, it is still difficult to understand. So as I said before, you have to live these moments to learn about the everyday task with an Autistic Son.
Back to the potty training, I got to the most difficult part. He is in the bathroom, seated in the toilet but, how do I make him pee in the toilet? Well, I don’t know the answer to that yet, but I do know what I’ve tried so far. The routine of every 30 minutes, waiting until he just can hold it any more, modeling myself; I think I’ve tried them all. With little success so far, but I have faith in him and his ability to learn. He has shown that, many times and I know it’s just a matter of time before he masters this new task that’s been given to him.