One of the most important milestones in a child’s life is learning to use the toilet. Teaching this necessary skill is a somewhat trying time of trial and error for all parents, but for those with special needs children, it comes with its own additional considerations.

Spectrum360 has designed a toilet training program for school and home that can assist children in attaining this goal. It was developed by behaviorists and is based on the principles of Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) and the needs of each individual child. While training most often begins in pre-school, this method can be used at any time during an individual’s development.

The Prerequisites

Before beginning the training program, a child must meet certain prerequisites:

  • Have reached a developmental age of about 2 years old,
  • have the ability to follow one-step directions,
  • have the ability to sit upright independently and,
  • have the ability to sit on the toilet for one minute or longer.
Toilet training takes consistency.

Children should also be demonstrating some awareness of when their diapers or clothing is soiled. During toilet training, it’s important that children do not wear diapers or pull-ups because while wearing an absorbent diaper, the child does not come into contact with the natural consequences of toileting accidents.

The Plan

In toilet training, consistency is key! Working with the parents, our Academy360 behaviorist determines a schedule for taking the student to the bathroom at regular intervals.

“Typically we use toileting schedules based on the student’s needs,” says Val Triano, supervisor of the Behavior Intervention Department at Academy360 Lower School. “Depending on what level they’re at, we have them go to the bathroom at intervals – it can be as often as 15 minutes. We use positive reinforcement such as a toy or snack if they expel to increase that skill, which is a principle of ABA.”

Staff keeps meticulous data, charting the child’s progress in successfully urinating or vacating. “Once a child is on a successful 15-minute schedule for three consecutive days, we may move them up to a wider range, in 15-minute increments. The goal is to get them to a three-hour toileting schedule.”

According to guidelines set by Triano, each time the child is taken to the bathroom, the staff presents a visual picture of the bathroom to him/her with the instruction to, “Go here.” This technique is used to increase independence as well as picture-direction following skills.

LIttle boy in Superman cape at toilet.
Be patient!

If the child is successful, the reinforcer is delivered. This particular reinforcement item is available only for successful toileting, and should not be available at other times. The reinforcer differentiation encourages the child to increase their use of the toileting skill in order to get that particular reinforcer. Once the child reaches a three-hour schedule, the reinforcer is phased out.

“We do have a lot of accidents, but that’s part of the process. We don’t reprimand them, of course, it’s all part of the training,” she adds.

Trying it at Home

Triano encourages parents to follow the program at home. If the child is still wearing pull-ups, it is recommended that parents switch their child to underwear to encourage and facilitate the process.

“At home, it might be a little more difficult to carry out the program when balancing all the other needs of home life,” says Triano. “So it could be a challenge for parents to implement. But we’re always available for advice.”

“It comes from practice,” she continues. “Some children might naturally go on their own. Some discriminate, others need different ways of prompting and teaching. Parents could try using a timer at home, or some other way.”

The most important thing for parents to remember is, you and your child will get there! Toilet training requires patience, consistency, and optimism, but ultimately your child will accomplish this important milestone. Hang in!

 Lisa Crouch is the Assistant to the Public Information Officer.  Prior to working at Spectrum360, she worked at Yahoo, MSN, The Bergen Record, and other media outlets.  She has a BA in English Literature from Columbia University.  She is the proud aunt of an Academy360 Lower School student. In her off time, Lisa is a digital artist and writer.