July was a busy month for us, with Eric’s birthday, some ridiculous heat, and the majority of Danny’s summer school. At the end of it, however, we undertook our craziest part of this summer: potty training Danny.
Now, at nearly 4 and a half, it seems like he’s a bit old to be in pull-ups. That is true. I’ve had comments from people about the fact that he’s still in pull-ups. I’ve had people ask why he doesn’t potty. I’ve seen kids half his size and age going to the bathroom on their own. It’s been…a negative experience, to say the least. But, with his delays and issues, it just never presented itself.
Finally, I realized that – like many things – he is not going to “just get it.” That’s all the advice I kept getting: one day it will click. He’ll do it when he’s ready. Well, honestly, Danny may never have decided he was ready. I had to push him, so push I did.
First, I tried the old “take him to the potty every 10 minutes” routine. That was a horrible failure. He had no idea what was up, and by the end of 8-9 hours of taking him to the bathroom every 10-20 minutes, only to have him pee where he sat a minute later, I was ready to pull my hair out. The thing I realized from that was that he had no idea what the expectation was. The thing with a lot of kids with special needs is that some things just aren’t intuitive. Danny is not a social creature – he doesn’t care if we take him to the bathroom with us, he doesn’t care to watch us go, he doesn’t care if we offer rewards or punishments. He does his own thing. When I kept taking him to the bathroom, offering rewards and coaxing him to do like we do, he just…didn’t get it.
I saw someone posting on a forum about potty training their autistic 4.5 year old, so I reached out. I asked. What did you do? How did it work? Can you help me???
It turned out that she could. Bless her for reaching out to a complete stranger, she told me what she did. And we did it.
Rather than working it from the front end, taking Danny and expecting him to pee, we worked it from the back end. I waited for a week when Eric was in camp, and I stuck to Danny like glue. Whenever he started to pee, I picked him up and raced him to the bathroom. I sat him on the potty and announced cheerily, “Pee goes on the potty!” If he were to work on a bowel movement, I’d whisk him for that too.
One day. Two days. He would start to pee and run with me, peeing all the way, to the bathroom. It was exhausting. It was SO much work.
But it was working.
Three days. Four days. He would stop peeing, sometimes, to make his run to the bathroom. There was one day when he peed like 15 times in the morning alone. He’d start to pee, cut it off, run to the potty, and pee a little in the toilet. He’d repeat that 5 times in a cluster for the entire movement, like he was practicing how to stop and start.
Five days. Six days. I was ready to go bananas, but he was getting close. He would go into the bathroom and pee on the rug in front of the toilet, in his underwear – but the peeing was happening in the bathroom. He was right there, but I didn’t know how to bridge the gap. He didn’t want to stand on a stool, but he wanted to stand to pee. I tried teaching him to aim, and he just played with himself as he peed. Oh please, I thought, don’t give me another super-messy peeing boy.
Over a week in, and I was just…done. I couldn’t give up, because then we’d have to do it all over again, but I was so tired of being stuck in the house and stuck to his side – and now I had Eric to care for as well, since camp was over. But I was going to do it, darn it.
And it suddenly started to click. Pieces started to come together. He would hop on the potty, announce “no potty,” and get down, so I would sit in front of the closed door. Nope, I’d tell him. I know you have to go. I could tell his signals by now, playing with himself and refusing to stand still or sit in one place. It meant he had to go. So I took him and got him to go…and he started to.
We still aren’t fully there. It’s been a week and a half since we started, and I have to watch him. I have to pick up on his signals, but if I do, I can take him to the potty and he will go. If I don’t catch his signals, sometimes he races to the potty and pees on the rug, sometimes he just stands there and pees…but he’s learning. Today, he went to the bathroom a couple of times, and with me on his heels he just went. It will be a while yet I’m sure before he’s just doing it all independently, but it’s there. It’s coming. He hasn’t worn a pull-up during the day for a week and a half, and it’s so, so nice. (We still wear them at night; I could probably night train him if I just cut out liquids after 6, but he lives for his bedtime milk and it’s not worth the fight.)
It took a push. A huge one. But he is getting there.