Whew! I feel like I can finally breathe a sigh of relief. I am raising two boys on my own, and both happen to be on the autism spectrum. Therefore, breathing easy just doesn’t happen in our house, between all of the sensory overloads, meltdowns, tantrums, inability to express needs and so forth. However, now a very small part of me can relax because we accomplished potty training!
It took over 18 months, and it was no walk in the park. In fact, it came with meltdowns, screams, cries, kicks, hits, feces on the wall, and feces and urine on the carpet. I know—gross! But when you are trying to potty train a non-verbal child with severe autism, it isn’t pretty.
Every parent dreads the potty training stage. When you are an autism parent, you dread it even more. Every rule and suggestion that you were ever told from neurotypical parents goes completely out the door. It simply doesn’t apply to the strenuous task that you have on your hands.
There were times I never thought I would achieve what we did. Yes, I wanted to give up many times. In fact, I clearly remember crying myself to sleep many nights out of frustration and pure exhaustion over potty training. Some individuals with autism are never able to accomplish this milestone. Therefore, I am very thankful and grateful that we were able to accomplish this step in our journey.
All the tears and sweat was worth it. There was nothing like the feeling I had on the day that I realized, “He is getting it.” On that particular day, I walked into the bathroom to find Trenton on the toilet. Goosebumps instantly blanketed my body. I didn’t tell him to go. I didn’t force him and drag him to the bathroom. He went all by himself. My son was sitting on the toilet and doing what we had been working on for months! Instead of tears of frustration, I cried tears of joy.
It was very clear that I wasn’t the only one that was happy with this big moment—he was too. The grin he had on his face while he was clapping his hands with excitement was priceless. He knew exactly what he was doing and he was just as happy as I was. From that day forward, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel that I never thought I would see.
By no means could this have happened without my son’s fantastic team of therapists working so diligently with him while he received applied behavior therapy in their facility. His team of coaches at Harsha Autism Center deserves much credit for this accomplishment. If I was trying to do this without the help of his therapist, we wouldn’t be where we are today.
So, to the parents just starting this step on your journey, hang in there. You will go through the unthinkable. You might have a day or two where you simply think you smell like the potty because it is all you deal with. Your heart will sink at the sound of the timer going off because you know how much work it is going to be to get your child to transition to the bathroom. I know you will be exhausted. I know. I understand. I get it. Please stick with it and be consistent, because it is amazing when you all finally get there.