Toilet Training

From the bottom of the stairs I can hear my wife shouting, “Push! Push! You’re doing well! Relax! Try moving your legs out a little!” It sounds like, inspired by ‘One Born Every Minute’, she has taken up a course of midwifery. But she hasn’t: she is trying to get our son to do a poo. The look on her face when she comes back downstairs tells me she has not succeeded. B will not be getting five stars on his toilet chart or that CD he wants this time. Or, indeed, anytime.

This is a familiar scene in our house. Try as we might, we have never conquered toilet training during B’s four and a half years. Strategies have come and gone, toileting courses attended and books read. ‘Pirate Pete and his Potty’ failed to move him and no movements came as a result of the social story we wrote. Try as we might, B has simply not been ready. We’ve questioned, and been questioned about whether we’ve tried hard enough but the truth is, we’ve tried as hard as we can. I’m thankful that we have an older son with whom we proved we could do it under more typical circumstances. Perhaps there are experts out there who could have made a breakthrough, but for us mere mortals, it’s been nigh on impossible.

This week, inspired by a chat with Autism Outreach, we decided to step up our efforts, again. Preparations were made: a new sticker chart, a potty within reach, and many, many pairs of pants. In addition to these, B was equipped with ‘Dry Like Me’, a pant liner designed to help the transition from nappies. ‘How do you put these on?’ I asked my wife. ‘They’re just like a sanitary towel’, she replied, helping me not one bit.

The plan was to keep B in pants in the house and closely monitor him. At these times we turn our backs at our peril. B has sense enough to know that when the tap is turned on, it’s preferable to let it hit the floor rather than run down his legs and soak into his clothes. He does this in a flash. How can anyone remove shoes, socks, trousers and pants that quickly? How is that possible? The result is a lake of urine that was not there when you looked at him five seconds ago. It is worse if B is engaged in an activity that he does not want to stop, usually the DS or (oh, the irony) the Wii. He will happily let it happen in his pants at those times, only afterwards bothering to get his clothes off or tell someone. Now that’s hardcore gaming.

And then, a breakthrough… this week, B has done a poo on the toilet. Twice.

Before I get carried away and give all the credit to myself, I must point out that it was my wife who made the success possible. Having put him in pants, she watched him like a hawk. The slightest hint that there might be something on the way and she was there, ready. She has become something of an expert at reading ‘poo face’ or ‘poo posture’- that is, the slightest of changes in B that precede business. She really can tell. As a result she becomes the Poo Police when B is in pants, ready with a cry of ‘Code Brown!’ and the two minute warning that gives us. On the first occasion, she ‘read’ him and I pessimistically led him upstairs to the bathroom for the usual battle.

In an effort to relax him, I tried to make him laugh. I can’t say I’ve ever found laughing on the toilet helps me go (or tried for that matter) but something made me decide to try it. The thing he finds most amusing at the moment is when I speak French to him (or ‘Franklish’ as he calls it). So I began to mutter a few words in French, a little bit of counting and the odd phrase or two. He found this hilarious, and seemed to forget he was on the toilet at all. Before continuing, I made him understand that if he tried pushing, I would say something else. Lo and behold he tried; he clearly tried. So I continued.

I should point out at this stage that my French is, at best, limited. I achieved grade C at GCSE but it should have been an E, and I have never since used what little French I learnt. This meant that time was not really on my side with this particular strategy. Before long I would have exhausted everything I know. Nonetheless, we proceeded.


‘Que’ll age tu?’


‘Ou est la patisserie?’


‘Je voudrais une banane!’


‘Voulez vous coucher avec moi, ce soir?’ (getting desperate now)

And then, like a miracle, there it was. He literally laughed it out of his body.

We shared a moment of stunned silence, before erupting into joyous celebration. B was as pleased as I was, and totally understood the significance of what had just happened. Finally, a poo on the toilet!

I’m going to gloss over the next three days of toilet failure and skip to the next victory. This time I was better prepared, and had downloaded a French phrase app to my phone. It says French phrases out loud, so you don’t have to. There was no stopping us now. Different types of fruit and vegetables? Click. Going to the shops? Click. Days, Months and Seasons? Et voila! At school, the teachers would always tell us the value in learning a language. Could they ever have possibly conceived that this would be one of its uses?

Once is a fluke, but twice… that suggests, to me, a minor breakthrough. Only time will tell, although circumstances may well work against us. It’s one thing keeping him in pants in the house, but how are we going to persuade school to let him wear them? And are we brave enough to go for it when we leave the house at weekends? That’s asking a lot but is probably the only way we are going to be able to capitalise on our successes so far.

Autism changes your life in funny ways. Who would have thought that my happiest moment in weeks would come while I was on all fours in the bathroom staring up my son’s backside?

I feel confident we can build on this success. Wish me luck. Vive la toilette!


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14 Responses to Toilet Training

  1. MAJOR breakthrough for sure!!! Toilet Training…THE hardest thing I’ve EVER had to do!!! Sounds like you’ve got it all under control mon ami. ;P

  2. Richmond says:

    Oh this made me laugh – you have to laugh with toilet training or you cry! I am also on a mission again to potty train my DS3 aged just 4. After having no problem with my 2 girls (both dry by 2 and a half), I am only just realising the difference with a boy and an autistic non verbal one at that. I have the PS health care padded trainer pants so as to try and avoid undue embarrassment at his pre school, I have the potty’s lined up with military precision and of course the seats to go on the toilet which we call the bear seats. I have had the odd success but it seems to be luck. However I am sure I will get there it will just take longer (a lot longer) than usual.! Good luck to you and your wife (and your son).

  3. Steph says:

    J’espere que… Oh no, bugger, I did a-level but it’s just so long ago!!!! This post really made me laugh (sorry, other people’s misfortune and all that) so thanks. Only thing I can really say to cheer you up is that I’m 99% sure it won’t take much longer… Oh and that things can only go up from looking at bottoms :-0

  4. sarah says:

    Well done to your boy!! When we toilet trained Z he was fine with No 1’s but went 5 days with no No 2’s, he complained of tummy ache but would just not do one, i sent my OH out to the chemist to get him something in case he was constipated & as soon as he drove off Z muttered the words poo, quick race upstairs & he done it in the toilet, lots of wooping & high 5’s! Now he sits on the toilet for ages looking at his dads car magazines when he goes for No 2’s.

  5. jule meyer says:

    I laughed at this because I’ve been there. My aspie son was close to 5 when he started to get it. He still had to wear pull-ups and we had our share of poo struggles, but I was starting to see light. He is almost 9 and I still have to remind him to poo every day or he tries to hold it. I wonder if I will ever be done potty training. Good luck!

  6. Oh yeah – toilet training. Still in the thick of it at 5y2m. Got the wee’s in the toilet happening but poo – well lets say the closest we’ve gotten so far is that he’ll take his clothes off and do one in my study! Thanks darling!!! Still it’s better than when he does them in his pants, then takes his clothes off. That’s not nice! Sorry for the graphic detail, but who else can you tell? Only other parents who get it, so thanks for the opportunity to share on the subject that rules my days.

  7. Made me laugh and smile, well done all of you!

  8. Wow this brought back memories! Nearly fell off my perching stool laughing! Z is 19 now and able to do all of his toileting on his own however, he wasn’t dry at night until he was 12, daytime he was 5y8m. As far as number 2’s were concerned I, like your wife, could recognise the “poo face”, we would race up the stairs to the bathroom, put Z on the loo, then I would sit on a stool in front of him demonstrating the head squeeze for encouragement. We had a small toy warship sailing in the bottom of the toilet (can you think what’s coming?) we placed our hands either side of our head, shouting “SQUEEZE those BOMBS out and sink the ship”. After years of frustration we finally had “Bombs away!” in a toilet. We came about this method quite by chance whilst on holiday in Cornwall, a fun ride at one of the children’s play parks was a large pool with quarter size tank type machines that you could sit inside and then try and aim the cannons which fired “bombs” to sink some remote controlled ships. It was great fun for the children but also the adults. We had many a meltdown trying to “let somebody else have a go” and spent many hours even just watching. We first put the ship in the loo (in the absence of a ping pong ball) to encourage number 1’s standing up, in this case using Water cannons to sink the ship, natural progression was for “BOMBS” to sink them. Away from the house took much longer but I think he finally cracked it totally at about age 7y1m. Visitors to our house often questioned the ship in the toilet! Even now we hear the occasional “Bombs Away” from upstairs!

  9. Hilarious! Can’t believe this is the first post of yours I have come across. Utterly fantastic.

  10. This reminds me of one of my children who used to hide behind the curtain to do no. 2s. Sensory issues made the process so awful that they used to hide around the house rather than use the potty or loo. Can you imagine the grunts behind the curtain and in front of relatives or friends when a no 2 was on its way? I could never find an adequate explanation. Its taken me over a decade to finally crack my son’s bedtime wetting and even now I’m not sure its totally sorted. Anxiety and sensory issues still make toileting difficult for him.

    As for school, I even ended up in the headmasters office arguing about pull ups and the local authority policy about toilet training. The nursery manageress refused to allow my son to wear pull ups and complained about me to the health visitor who then made a surprise telephone call to me about my parenting!! I argued back that my son was not ready for pants and was only happy in pull ups but they refused to listen. Apparently pull ups were not acceptable to the local authority and school – children had to be dry apparently. I ignored them, the nursery manager ostracised me for not conforming but my son was happy and eventually got drier as he got older.

    Sorry for the long post; can’t really discuss toileting on my blog as my mum and dad and their friends have recently found my blog and there are certain things I won’t discuss on there.

    Well done to you and your son on the breakthrough by the way.

  11. Septicgirl says:

    I don’t know how you are currently getting on with the toilet training. We had success with a book called ready set potty by Brenda Batts. It’s an American book and I was really cynical when I read it but I have to say it really worked. I started on the Wednesday of half term in February and by the Saturday my 4.5 yo son was signing when he needed the toilet. It took about 6 weeks to stop having the odd accident (engrossed in his favourite toy) but I was amazed at how it worked. He still wears a nappy at night, which is generally dry in the morning but occasionally is wet. I followed the book to the letter apart from one thing – I used a toilet insert when the book advised not to.

  12. Fiona says:

    This made me laugh so much – and well done to everyone involved! My four-year-old son is also only just toilet trained after a year of working on it, so I relate to much of what you say and have many, many poo and “oui”-themed stories to tell. You express the reality of a very difficult time beautifully and hilariously. Sending solidarity to you all!

  13. Adrian Jobson says:

    hello,my name is adrian jobson, I regularly look after a 8 year old severely autistic child, who cannot speak or hear, but can run a round just like any other child. I and I know his mother have great difficulty toilet training him and I would like to email your article on toilet training to her, but there is no facility to let me do this. I would be grateful if you could do this.Her email address is Thanks so much.

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