Allan and I were just getting ready to start potty training Natalie when we received her diagnosis. During the initial evaluations a therapist asked if Natalie was potty trained. I looked down and said, "No, it is something that we were getting ready to start and we will be doing that..." She interrupted and said, "Oh, don't worry about potty training now, she is non verbal, it is difficult and she may not be potty trained until 6 or 8 or more. Don't worry." Is she kidding me? How dare she assume that Natalie can't be potty trained? I felt so hurt and angry.For some reason, that became a touchy subject for me. In fact, a few days later, a colleague at work who has a child that is 1 month younger than Natalie, and who did not know about Natalie's diagnosis, asked if we had started to potty train yet. I answered No, but started to cry (a lot) right after. You see, at that moment, all I could do was picture Natalie at 8 years old, still wearing a diaper... and it hurt so bad. Since then we have had several other professionals tell us not to worry about potty training and they all seemed to be comfortable with the fact that Natalie may not accomplish this for a long time...Well, I was not comfortable with that, I was not going to accept that.
Please understand that I would never push Natalie to do something she is not ready to do. But I wanted to try. After all, if I had not received the diagnosis, I would have been potty training her anyway, she is still the same child she was before Autism came into our life and I wanted to try.
I decided to wait until she started preschool. I spoke to her teacher about it and she suggested I start after 3 weeks of school in order for Natalie to get adjusted to the school routine first. After 3 weeks, I was ready to begin. The teacher suggested that I take her to the potty every 15 minutes and keep her there for one full minute. She asked me to start over the weekend and she would continue during the week at school. That weekend, we took off the diaper and had Natalie in underwear. At first we had very little success. I would take Natalie to the potty and I would say (in a marching band tune) "Potty!, potty! potty!..." all the way to the bathroom. She would get all excited marching into the bathroom. I would sit her down and I would say (again, in a musical tune) "pee-pee, pee-pee, go, go go!" ......and nothing would happen. So we would leave and set up the timer for another 15 minutes. But guess what? she was going in between the 15 minute intervals and as much as I tried to predict when she would need to go, I could not get it right. As soon as she would start to have an accident, I would scoop her up and run all the way to the toilet and sit her down and say, "Pee pee in the potty" Sometimes I made it in time and she would finish on the toilet and I would cheer and dace and give her a high five and we would do a "potty dance." You see, for Natalie, stickers, toys, candy, none of that works as a reward. Instead, all she wants is recognition, she wants to feel proud and make you feel proud of her. She loves the feeling of accomplishment.
Needless to say that I did a lot of pee pee and poopy cleaning. But by week 2, Natalie had learned a new word, "A-Pee," meaning pee-pee. This was a huge accomplishment and incredibly beneficial! Because I was no longer needing to take her to the bathroom every 15 minutes. Instead, she was running over and grabbing my hand, and saying, "A-Pee, A-Pee." I would take her to the bathroom and she would go every time. Of course she still had some accidents and she had not accomplished the poopy part of it yet. However, every time she pooped on the floor (sorry for the visual) or draw some cool artwork on the walls using poopy finger paint (my apologies again) I would take that poop, we would march to the toilet, we dumped the poop into the water and I would say, "bye-bye poopy!"
So after 6 weeks of training I am happy to report that, for the last week, Natalie has been accident free and she goes, on her own, to the potty and does both #1 & #2, and she even wipes and flushes all on her own!