Task Analysis for Toilet Training
When your child is ready for toilet training the process may go smoothly and quickly, but when the child is resistant to the process it can become an ongoing battle. According to the Mayo Clinic, many children are ready for toilet training at 2 to 2 1/2 years, but some may not be ready until they are even older 1. A task analysis breaks down toilet training into specific skills your child must be able to master to complete the process. To assess your child's readiness for toilet training, consider his ability to complete each task in the process.
Before your child can learn to use the toilet on her own, she must be aware of when she needs to go to the bathroom and have the ability to control the urge long enough to get to the bathroom. According to the Mayo Clinic, your child has likely reached this stage of awareness when she remains dry for two hour periods during the day, stops what she is doing when she goes in the diaper or seeks a new diaper immediately after soiling the one she is wearing.
To successfully use the bathroom independently, your child must be able to pull her own pants up and down. Many parents choose to dress their children in loose clothing, such as sweat pants or other clothing that does not include buttons or zippers, during the toilet training period. During the summer months, shorts or training pants can be worn inside the home to make the process easier.
If your child struggles to get the bathroom door open, is unable to reach the light switch or cannot reach the toilet easily, her efforts to go potty may frustrate her. Keeping the bathroom door ajar and providing her with easy access to the light switch and toilet with a foot stool can help her progress in the toilet training process. Many parents teach boys to urinate from the standing position, but this, too, requires coordination. The child must be able to use his hands to direct the stream of urine into the potty chair or toilet. Some teach boys to use the potty chair for bowel movements and the regular toilet to pee. If you choose this method, your child must be tall enough to reach the toilet with ease. If your child has difficulty directing the stream of urine, or reaching the regular toilet, it may be easier for him to pee sitting down in the potty chair, with a guard in place to help direct the urine.
Wiping and flushing is also an important part of learning to use the toilet independently. To do so, your child must be able to both reach the toilet paper and reach his bottom with ease, and he must have the strength to push down the handle to flush the toilet. Finishing up with a thorough hand washing is also important. If you child has difficulty reaching the sink, a step stool may be in order. Place the soap and hand towel within easy reach to encourage him to do a thorough job.
Initially, your child may need your assistance in one or more of the steps, or may need adaptations to assist him. Dressing your little one in clothing that is easy to pull up and down, teaching boys to sit down to pee, attaching a lower handle to the bathroom door or moving the toilet paper and towels to an easy-to-reach location are all ways you can adapt the environment so your child can complete the tasks necessary for toilet training if he is otherwise ready to do so.
Typically, wiping his bottom and washing his hands will require your assistance and instruction until your child can consistently complete these tasks in a satisfactory manner. It may be some time before your child can complete all the required steps without supervision.
- Mayo Clinic: Potty Training: How to Get the Job Done
- Chaidez V, Hansen RL, Hertz-picciotto I. Gastrointestinal problems in children with autism, developmental delays or typical development. J Autism Dev Disord. 2014;44(5):1117-27. doi:10.1007/s10803-013-1973-x
- Autism Speaks. Toilet training.
- Cocchiola, M. Toilet training children with autism and developmental delays: an effective program for school settings. Behav Anal Pract. 2012 Winter; 5(2): 60–64.
- Interview with Kimberly Kroeger-Geoppinger, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist and assistant professor of pediatrics at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center,
- Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images