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Your Advice Requested: Toilet Teaching for a Six Year Old

By October 1, 2006

The question of toilet teaching is always tricky -- and it's even trickier with an autistic child. This reader's child uses the toilet, but only to urinate. What might encourage him to try using the toilet for a bowel movement? Your ideas are welcome!

My son is 6 years old and not toilet trained as far as having a bowel movement. He will urinate in the toilet with no problem but refuses to have a bowel movement. He will hold it in until I give him a pull up. I have tried everything from rewards, talking about it, not talking about, not giving him a pull up (by the way if I don't give it to him, he will hold it in forever), punishing him etc. I am at my wits end. He is in first grade and so far has never had an accident in school. He always waits until he gets home. Do you have any suggestions? He just refuses to sit on the toilet. Thanks for any advice.
October 1, 2006 at 2:03 pm
(1) Colleen says:

I am guessing you have allready tried leaving Dr. Suess and Where’s Wado books and erasable markers next to the pot. Works wonders.Aspergers mom.

October 1, 2006 at 8:49 pm
(2) Parent says:

Something that helped my child to use the toilet was placing the TV close by. We noticed that it help him to be relaxed. Our child is now 5 years old and uses the bathroom independently since he was 31/2. I know it was an orthodox way to teach a child how to use the bathroom but it worked. We are teaching our child to say “bathroom” every time he has to go instead of saying “pipi”.

October 2, 2006 at 2:59 pm
(3) Was in the same boat... says:

Our son was the same way. We finally got him to poo on the toilet by bribing him. (I know, I know…bad mommy.)

My husband and I would only blow bubbles to him WHILE he sat on the toilet. When he’d get up, we’d stop. (Granted, he was only 2 at the time so it might be different for your 6 year old.) When he finally “accidentally” pooped in the toilet, we made a big deal of out of a great job he did.

It must have “clicked” for him because he’s been just fine with both ever since.

Good luck. It isn’t easy.

October 2, 2006 at 8:28 pm
(4) Sgruver says:

Our daughter did not poo in the toilet until she was 5. She had problems with bowel movements and sometimes it obviously hurt. What finally worked for her was when we were literally “out” of pullups for her. We just never bought more. Yes it took 2 days before she went the 1st time, but it got easier each time and now she is fine.

September 4, 2011 at 6:15 pm
(5) Cameron's Mom says:

I tried simply not buying any more pull ups, but my son just held his poop for 7 days. When he started begging me to buy him pull ups/diaper anything so he could go, I finally bought them again.

He had several bowel movements for the next two days after I purchased the Pull Ups.

I think he may have a sensitivity issue in that he needs the feeling of the warmth [disgusting] touching his skin. Or at least his skin in the warmth of the pull up.

It’s like a comforting blanket on his bottom or something.

October 6, 2006 at 11:45 am
(6) Kathy says:

My son did not poop in the toilet until he was nearly six. The problem was that he couldn’t see how it worked, like he could with peeing. So I made a book with explicit drawings, and one day he bent over with his bottom facing a full length mirror, looked between his legs and we talked about where the poop comes out. Slowly he agreed to poop in the potty.
Don’t let him hold it in–my son did and has a megacolon problem now –his poops clog the toilet daily and the tests for colon problems are terrible on a young child. We wish we had really made him stick with mineral oil to keep things going.

October 7, 2006 at 5:27 am
(7) LesleyS. says:

My son is closing in on age 5 and he is doing the same thing with a pullup. I think he gets the concept – but refuses to comply. There was a time we would close all doors around the house (place safety locks on doors so he couldnt open them) and he finally ran into the bathroom and did his poop in the toilet. But that was trial by fire. Also I once cut a hole in the pullup and the poop landed on the floor – and it really freaked him out. I keep thinking when he is ready he will just do it on his own. Still working on it…

September 4, 2011 at 6:18 pm
(8) Cameron's Mom says:

Did he ever start going in the toilet?

My son is autistic and we are having a hard time getting out of the pull ups!

October 7, 2006 at 8:30 pm
(9) Diana Alvarado says:

Hi, my son is now 11 years old. He finally potty trained at 4 years old after a series of secretin, which helped reduce the inflamation and irritation in the intestines. During this time we had Julian watch Josua and the potty. There is a Josua’s sister and the potty aslo. I went to a little book store in our town and the owner looked up Josua and the potty in the computer system, and ordered it for me. The first one I found at toys r us, I lent it out and never got it back, so I ordered another one, this one too is lent out, but no one in my home needs it anymore, at the time we used a porta potty from walmart, see Julian had never cared for the sounds the toilets make, in home or public. I can’t say which worked, but together the training was accomplished.

Best wishes
Blessing from the heart
Diana (559) 662-0651 California

October 8, 2006 at 1:50 am
(10) Karyn DeFoore says:

Our soon was almost seven before he was
completly potty trained. His problem was
not realizing when he needed to use the
bathroom until he had already gone. For
your sons situation using Benefiber would probably help. He won’t know he’s
taking it unless he sees you putting it
in his drink. You want him to be able to go as quickly and easily as possible.

October 8, 2006 at 12:23 pm
(11) Emili says:

My son is almost 7 and I feel like I’ve tried everything to potty train him. It is really holding him back at school. He loves wearing underpants, but we just can’t catch it. Help!!

October 8, 2006 at 1:01 pm
(12) marc says:

maybe put lots of fiber or some laxative in his diet.
sooner or later he wont be able to hold it in!!!
does he drink plenty of water? (water is soooo valuable… and so many kids (and adults too) walk around in a permanent dehydrated state!

(hydration check: if your urine is clear colour, then you are good!! if your urine is yellow,, or (even worse) brown, then you are dehydrated!) drink water and watch the urine go back to clear colour. (a great self check!)

any kid with a decent diet should have no problems needing to empty his/her bowels daily. (if they arent doing this then REVIEW his/her diet.
NO JUNK, NO CANDY, reduce pre-made package meals.
make mroe home-made stuff.. lots of veg,,, and something like oats in teh morning cereal,, (avoid kellogs and nestle cereals coz they are soooo high in sugars, (unless, of course, its bran).

take care of yourselves ;) )


October 8, 2006 at 10:00 pm
(13) shuebox says:

One of my daughters was exactly the same way. She was almost when she finally would have a bm on the potty. Like the comment left by the fifth poster, she would not do it until she knew how everything worked. I had the hardest time figuring out that that was the issue. Once she understood everything, she did it and never looked back. No accidents to date.
Ya’ll will get there.
Keep fighting the good fight.

October 9, 2006 at 4:42 am
(14) Norway Mom says:

My son was finally trained at 4+ years old. The main barrier turned out to be sensory issues — not feeling safe/steady while sitting on the toilet, so he couldn’t relax enough to pee a single drop, let alone poop. Once we realized this and let him sit “backwards” and hold onto the tank, he was finally able to relax enough to let nature take its course. Once he made that breakthrough, it took a little time for him to learn to interpret his body’s signals — to understand they meant that he needed to head to the bathroom, before the feeling got too urgent. It felt like it took forever, but within a couple months he was trained and felt safe on the toilet, so he no longer needed to face backwards. However now, 4 years later, he still often needs a toy or book to help him sit still and relax, such as a flashlight, toy catalog, Magnadoodle, or something with buttons to push. Good luck! P.S. For help understanding sensory issues, I recommend the book “Raising a Sensory Smart Child” by Biel and Peske.

October 9, 2006 at 9:52 am
(15) Joyce McCall says:

My son is 7 and he has encopresis. We went to a pediatric gastroenterologist to get help. He had to take Miralax for about 6 months to get his bowels moving and we are still doing bowel retraining with him. Basically, when he was little he got constipated a lot so he avoided going poop. Eventually his colon became enlarged so that he couldn’t feel the nerve sensation of needing to evacuate anymore. His brain got so used to the smell of soiled pants that he didn’t even register that he was stinky. I saw his x-rays after a gastroscope 9 months ago and his colon looked bigger than his stomach. Very scary! But it was all reversible and he is making slow but sure progress. Look online at emedicine.com for articles on bowel retraining with encopresis. You have to be consistant. Our doc said punishment rarely works, so we set up a reward calendar and hung in the bathroom. When he has a setback, we remind him that every day is a new day and a fresh start for him to reach his goal. It’s still frustrating sometimes, but with repeated slip ups, we just go back to square one with the medicine. Also, no pull-ups. He has to rinse his own underwear out!

October 10, 2006 at 8:25 am
(16) Nina says:

Our daughter was finally trained at age 5. We had a behavioral psychologist working with her at the time and he threw out the pullups first thing. You can graduate to this by putting regular big kid underwear (spidey & spongebob, Barbie…) on first, then the pullup. Then when they do go in the pants its much more uncomfortable for them than the roomier pullup. Second, give him any kind of essential oils: flax is good, and lots of water daily (even if you have to disguise it with some koolaid, its still water).
next, the most uncomfortable part is let your child join you or his/her other parent while they do the poopy thing. Sounds gross but they really want to be like us and it worked with my daughter. Very shortly, like a couple weeks, she caught on and started going and never stopped. The ritualistic potty thing they do at school really helped too because all the kids go at the same time and its an event. They like regularly scheduled events. Hope we all helped some. God Bless them every one!

October 10, 2006 at 8:08 pm
(17) Michelle says:

I agree that your son may just need to understand how it all works. You can either take pictures of him sitting on the potty or read the book,Everybody Poops. yes there really is a book called that. It worked for one of my students.

February 9, 2007 at 5:23 pm
(18) 1234 says:

let your kid run around naked outside that helped my 12 year old daughter.

February 15, 2007 at 5:39 pm
(19) Karie says:

My son is 4 1/2 years old and has constant acidents. He did poop in the toilet for a while and still does every now and than. For the last 1-2 months he has been pooping in his pants again. It’s driving me crazy, I don’t know what to do!!! Any Advice?

March 28, 2007 at 8:44 am
(20) Michele says:

My son is 7 years old, and will try to sit on the potty, but he just cannot get the whole idea – csmeone suggested we take him to a chiropractor – we are willing to try anything- the Dr.s did not help, and he runs for a pull up after school…
We’ve tried the rewards, but he doesn’t care- he says he doesn’t know when it is going to happen – sometimes his friends tell me he smells – my son just thinks that’s the way it is …. I really feel for him- no sleepovers with friends or more than two hour stays at a friend’s house… it’s embarrassing.

June 2, 2007 at 8:29 pm
(21) Crystal says:

My daughter is 6 years old, she has never pooped in the potty..she has an extreme fear! She holds her poop all day while at school and waits to get home and use a pull-up. If she goes for a sleep over, she’ll hold it for days! I’ve tried everything I can think of, Bribery, rewards, sticker charts, therapy, refusal of the pull-up (which just leads to extreme constipation). I’m feel like a failure as a parent and worry constant when she’s at school or friends…please help!

August 10, 2007 at 2:47 pm
(22) Nicole says:

I am surprised at how old children are and not potty trained. My children were all out of nappies and potty trained by two and half or three. There was the odd rush to the loo but they were at preschool in underwear. I started potty training early and there was no, ifs andd or buts my children were taught that the potty was where we did our business with of course much praise and excitement for a job well done. Children want to please you, still potty training at 5,6,7 seems as though there are some deeper problems than pottytraining or there is a lack of commitment on the parents part. Children are not going to teach themselves or tell you when they are ready, you have to commit to the training and carry through, good Luck

July 16, 2011 at 4:28 pm
(23) Jennifer says:

Nicole, I don’t really appreciate your comment about these parents’ lack of committment. I started potty training my son right after he turned 2 yrs old. However, he did not become pee trained until almost 3 1/2 yrs. He is 6 yrs old now and will only use a pull-up to poop. My husband and I have tried everything we can think of to make this happen. Even took him to a ped GI doctor who blew us off! Apparently, you do not have any autistic children. Consider yourself lucky, but don’t rub it into other parents’ faces because we have enought to worry about!

August 11, 2007 at 7:08 pm
(24) Jay says:

Make them sit on the toilet until they poop dont let them up at allllllll. Suck it up and do it.

September 4, 2007 at 7:14 pm
(25) Stephanie says:

I agree. You can’t spoil them with things. It is best if you tell them, the earlier the better, this is where you go to potty while pointing at the toilet. Both of my children were potty trained by 3. The potty book did work in the beginning and having them see mommy use the potty to give them an understanding also and that it was normal and safe. I also made them help clean up when they made the mess because it took away from mommy’s time. My son would say, mom I pooped…do you want to see it? Of course I would say yes, and great job! No playing around though…potty training is serious and one of the hardest jobs that you can’t give up on. When it’s completed, it’s a job well done.

September 6, 2007 at 1:22 pm
(26) Stephanie says:

MUST TRY THIS ONE: I have to add…playing the “Counting while pooping game” for a young potty trainer worked also. When my son sat on the toilet, I said lets count. We said “one” and then pushed one time “ooh”. Then we said two and pushed 2 times “ooh, ooh”. Then we said three and pushed 3 times. Then we said four and pushed 4 times. By the time we get to five, he was pooping in the potty, even though he said he didn’t have to go in the beginning. Who would have thought…a counting educational game and learning the essentials by pooping in the potty while feeling comfortable and relaxed. Fun for the child and makes mommy or daddy happy!

January 8, 2008 at 9:19 am
(27) karen harner says:

I truly feel your pain. My 6 year old will NOT poop on the potty. I too got tired of rinsing underwear and gave in to pull ups for poop. I felt like I had the only child like this until I came across this link. It helps to not feel alone. He has tried everything and truly is fearful.

March 4, 2008 at 8:16 pm
(28) marisa says:

We’re going through the same thing with our 7 yr old. We are on Mirilax and ex-lax and have started biofeddback. He is to blow balloons while on the potty to strengthen his tummy muscles. Look into this…I think it will help.

May 25, 2008 at 8:41 pm
(29) Amy Ferber says:

I think that maybe post number 20 doesn’t have an autistic child and should not be posting on this blog. Who does this high and mighty person think she is judging all of these parents who have clearly tried everything and are only speaking of this because of the extreme difficulty they’re experiencing. She’s the one with the deeper problems and her perfect children will likely show her that by the time they’re adolescents. Everyone else’s comments are very helpful and heartfelt. I’m learning a lot from other’s experience. God bless all of us parents of beautiful and challenging autistic children!

June 14, 2008 at 12:46 am
(30) Nicole says:

Many great comments! Thank you, it’s nice not to feel alone. My daughter was perfectly potty trained. Did all the right books and follow through, post 20. But thanks. She’s now six and I feel the trouble is that she doesn’t want to stop her play and take the time. So I’m on a new mission…I’m going to tie a bright pink bow to her wrist and tell her it’s out special secret to remind her when she feels the urge THEN GO! I’m hoping a visual que while I’m not at day camp with her will help? But I am definitely open to suggestions!

June 14, 2008 at 12:49 am
(31) Nicole says:

At what point is it necessary to take them to the doctor because maybe that needs to be on the agenda as well.

July 16, 2008 at 9:05 am
(32) eileen says:

It is strange that I came across this site! I am desperate to find help. I have a 6 year old boy who will not do his bm in the potty. He has been to many, many specialists since he was – lterally – less then one day old! He has had many tests and we have traveled to different progressive institutes. We have spent a year with a counselor. At the end – she said he is a great kid – lots of fun – but no progress was made. That was a very expensive – bi-weekly play date! He is slightly developmentally delayed. He urinates in the potty without reminders. He has been on mira-lax – on and off for years. We have also tried several different diets – and an all natural herb – based regiment.

He always has a small portfion in his pants – regradless of how often he is changed. I agree with the idea that he no longer smells the oder – as that is all he knows. Other kids are picking up on the smell. We have tried incentives – as well as restriction. When placed on the potty – trantrums come out. It is preventing his involvement in many situations. We are all so frustrated! If ANYONE has any ideas – suggestions – please let me know!

PS – We did not enter theis venture as novices. Our daughter was fully trainined well before three years old.
Thank You!

September 6, 2008 at 7:58 pm
(33) Devyn says:

Many thanks for this site. I came across it looking for info for my 5 year old. He is not autistic but I definitley have taken some of the ideas and I know what you are all going though. I am sorry Post 20, but I can honestly tell you that myself and my husband have tried effortlessly to get my son to poop on the toilet. We have used rewards, positive reinforcement and everything we could think of. He refuses to poop on the toilet, and we make him sit there. I can take him to the toilet but I can’t make him poop. Its so frustrating and it upsetting. There is no lack of commitment on our part and until you have experienced this you really shouldn’t judge anyone.

September 8, 2008 at 4:03 pm
(34) paula says:

Hi so encouraging to see other people going through same thing. I have nearly 4yr old who refuses to poo on toilet or potty. He uses a nappy to poo in and has done since last year. we have tried rewards / bribes / making him sit there etc etc. Everyone tells us to ignore it and it will resolve itself. I’m not so sure as he gets so upset about sitting on the toilet. Help!!!!!!!

November 13, 2008 at 6:27 pm
(35) Katherine B says:

My six yr old was potty trained and we’ve tried everything to help with his back tracking in the poop department. We did the miralax thing via dr’s advice he just had diarreha all over himself for two days and we had more gross messes to clean up. He went to a friends for a playdate til 6pm an extreme occurance yet he did not poop in his pants at their place?? DO we ignore this, put him in a diaper…he’ll walk around naked and just let the poop fall where it may and continue playing.. We know he has the capability to poop he just refuses…do we fight, ignore, gently encourage…we’re tierd of the stcik and the gross wash!! help……

February 9, 2009 at 9:25 am
(36) denise says:

my son knew how to use the bathroom but never could tell when he had to take abowel movement until it was coming out I thought he was just laze or per occupied This when on until he was 13years old Then he was finaily diagnost with ADD the doctor put him on Starttres and he never had an accident again

May 3, 2010 at 2:08 am
(37) Lost says:

I have a 6 1/2 year old step-son who step poops on himself some days he’ll do good and go on the toilet other days he just goes on himself. He know when to go to the toliet to peep but will just refuse to sit on it to poop; if you ask him why he won’t go in the toilet it’s always I forgot, I don’t know, or because I was lazy. I don’t know what to do with him and he is already ending his first year of school (kindergraten). I would love for him to be fully potty trained by 1st grade and I really want him trained before my son starts to get the concept of potty training because I don’t want him to pick up on it’s ok to still wear “diapers” at the age of 6/7

November 18, 2010 at 11:29 pm
(38) allicansayiswow says:

I can’t believe a lot of these comments, her child has Autism and if you don’t know anything about it you shouldn’t be posting your comments. Potty training a child with Autism isn’t like potty training a child that does not have it. It is hard at most times none the less

November 22, 2010 at 12:26 pm
(39) Mickey says:

Never again will I judge a parent that has an older child that is not potty trained. My grandson is autistic and it has truly been a challenge to get him potty trained. Although he isn’t yet potty trained, I appreciate all the help that has been posted.

June 18, 2011 at 4:05 am
(40) Slee Ndlovu says:

I have a 5yr Old who was potty trained fine, however about 3 days ago he messed himself out of the blue. This has happened twice now what does this mean? I am confused. Thanks

July 20, 2011 at 7:43 pm
(41) jessica says:

I always thought i was the only one going through this. My 5 year old wont go in the toilet when it comes to going poop! i have tried everything and she just wont go! she pees on it just wont go poop! i am tired of buying pullups! i have stopped buying them and then had to buy them al over again because shes been constipated for up to 12 days!!!!!!! then she starts getting fevers and ive had to buy them because i want her to feel better. I dont know what to do anymore. she says shes scared and just cant poop! she will sit there to try but nothing comes out! HELP!

September 4, 2011 at 6:05 pm
(42) Cameron's Mom says:

I have the same issue with my Autistic son, who by the way is 6 as well. The only difference is he is going into the second grade (turns 7 on 9/21), but he does not have bowel movements in the toilet.

He has tried to go by himself, but it’s not as much as it is when he goes in the pullup.

I have given up trying to force him to go, and hope that he will begin to use the toilet when he is ready. I just don’t want him to always have to depend on a pull up/adult diaper.

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