Why Teaching Dressing Skills is Essential to Potty Train Autistic Kids

beatriz-perez-moya-rYvj17pefXs-unsplashToilet training for kids with ASD is complex, and it can take a while.  But while you are working on developing communication skills and increasing sensory tolerance, don’t forget to work on clothing management.



  1.  Autistic children tend to have difficulty quickly and accurately sensing urgency.  Unless you are glued to their side, and exclusively devoted to their every cue, they will only sense their need to “Go” moments to a few minutes before the dam breaks. Being able to drop their drawers correctly and quickly could make all the difference.
  2.  Autistic kids struggle with communicating their needs to adults.  This means that you could misinterpret their communication that is a request for clothing assistance.  Again, by the time you figure it out, there is a puddle on the floor.
  3. Autistic kids handle repeated failures poorly.  If they have an accident because they couldn’t get their pants down and down below their knees, it is likely that it is going to happen.  Repeatedly.  Because they may not ever connect the two, they won’t double-down.  They will quit.  Or worse.  
  4. When in doubt, autistic kids tend to take it all off.  Everything.  And in public.  Way before the moment needed to do it.  Children who do not know exactly what is needed in terms of clothing management tend to opt for full nudity.  There is nothing to get wrong when there is nothing on them, right?  Well, nothing except that in today’s “zero tolerance” environments, you could be asked to leave a class, library, or other facility.  

If you aren’t sure what to work on, ask your child’s OTR.  They should be able to guide you.

In the meantime, read  How To Speak With Your Autistic Child During Potty Training… to Get Results!   and  Self-Regulation in Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder: Boost Skills By Creating Routines and Limits  .

The Practical Guide To Toilet Training the Autistic Child:  Sensory-Motor Secrets for Success is now available!


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Learn more about my newest book, and how it can transform potty training for all autistic kids:  The Practical Guide to Toilet Training the Autistic Child: From Diapering Differently to Using Public Facilities


By Cathy Collyer

I am a licensed occupational therapist, licensed massage therapist, and certified CBT-i sleep coach in private practice in the NYC area. I have over 25 years of professional experience in adult and pediatric treatment. It has been a joy to help people of all ages improve their ability to grow and thrive! Occupational therapists are focused on enhancing a client's functioning in everyday life. We are practical healthcare providers, interested in teaching, adapting actions and environments, and building a client's useful skills for living their best life, regardless of their challenges. I am the author of five books, including "Staying In The Room: Managing Medical And Dental Care When You Have DID" and "The Practical Guide To Toilet Training the Autistic Child". I lecture on many subjects, including sleep, trauma, and development. Contact me to learn more about how I can help you achieve YOUR goals!

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