How do you potty train an autistic 4 year old?

My 4 year old has a PDD, possibly Asperger’s syndrome, and is delayed in many areas of development. I am having trouble potty training him. Any advice?

My daughter is not Autistic, but she does have Cerebral Palsy and I held off on potty training b/c she wasn’t physically ready at age 2. By the time she turned 3, we felt she was, so for one week, I let her hang out without anything on her bottom half. I put her potty seat in the family room and literally asked her every 2 or 3 minutes if she had to go. I let her sit on the potty while she drank juice and watched some TV. If your son understands the concept of rewards, I’d suggest using that too. We used the Kandoo Chart (found on It was actually more like a sticker book. Once the entire book was completed (meaning she had gone on the potty, wiped, flushed, washed and dried hands) with all the stickers (approximately 21 times) we took her to Chuck E. Cheese. But really, you can do anything you want. Whatever your son likes to do, make that the reward. We were very patient and when there were accidents, we told her it was ok to have an accident. No pressure, just wanted to teach her when to go and how to do it. It worked for us. She was completely trained in less than 2 weeks! However, at 4 1/2 years old now, she still isn’t trained at night. That’s b/c of safety issues. We don’t want her up at night trying to climb on the toilet by herself (she’s not well balanced to begin with) half asleep, without having her braces (for walking) on or her glasses. She still wears pull-ups. We tried earlier this summer to get her to wake us up when she has to go, but it just wasn’t happening. If it’s not going well, I think it’s best to hold off for a while. If a child isn’t ready, they aren’t ready. GOOD LUCK! If you’re looking for support, please join us at It’s an online group for parents of children with disabilities and special needs.

Oh dear, that’s a tough one. I also have a developmentally -delayed 4yo who’s possibly on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum. He’s just starting to potty train now.

For us, it has really been a matter of knowing our child’s limits. My son’s been terrific with scheduled wake-up/bedtime “potty calls”, and absolutely HAS to check out the bathroom whenever we’re out running errands, but he has a tendency to hyper-focus on activities, and often doesn’t get to the bathroom until it’s too late. So I watch him like a hawk.

Like just about everything with an “identified” child, it’s a challenge. But be consistent, patient and kind, especially when you feel your blood pressure rising after the 50th accident. He’ll get there.

my autistic daughter just became potty trained this year (4 1/2 yrs) I just put her on the potty at consistent times and she finally got the idea (took over a year). All of a sudden she took over and goes whenever the need arises. I use pull-ups still for nighttime because she cannot leave her room at night otherwise she would wander the house and get herself hurt.

Well, I am very old <smile> so forgive me if my terms are no longer current. In the old days, we used to talk about “toilet conditioning” with children who had disabilities, rather than toilet training. What did that mean? It meant that our expectation was that the child would “use” the toilet when taken, but might not initiate the process himself/herself. So, they might not say “Mommy, I have to go to the bathroom!” but, would keep clean and dry by being taken at regular intervals to the toilet.

Also- if your son is non verbal, you can teach him the sign for toilet which is a “T” in finger spelling. That way, when he’s ready developmentally, he can indicate the need to you, without even being able to talk!

Get lots of easy to pull up (and down) elastic waist pants, and have cleaning supplies within easy reach to be ready for accidents. In the car, put heavy towels under the carset and on the floor which can then be easily removed and washed.

Good luck to you!
from a grandma-aged person

Keep using the same methods you would use on any child. Constant reinforcement is the answer. It will take considerably longer because of the PDD. Your child will learn, your patience will be tested if it isnt already. Associate bowel movements with the toilet bowel. Sit the child on it repeatedly. Peace.

Put some Cheerios in the toilet and tell him that they’re boats and he has to sink them. Make it into a game. If you have further questions, you should bring it up at the next doctors appointment.

Leave a Comment