Use Dry Runs With Autistic Kids During Potty Training (Wait; What’s a Dry Run?)


boy tow rolls on eyes


I finished writing “The Practical Guide To Toilet Training The Autistic Child:  Sensory-Motor Secrets For Success”.  It was a labor of love, and a lot of work.  I got to the chapter on safety and balance, and decided that I couldn’t wait until it is published to put out another post on why “dry runs” are one of the magical strategies for  improving these skills.

Because all of the behavioral and communication issues are full frontal with autism, problems with balance and safety awareness can fall to the side.  Parents and professionals alike (not OTs and PTs!) assume that these skills will magically improve over time.

They don’t.

Sometimes you get lucky, and a kid falls enough to decide to slow down or look around.  Sometimes they get tall enough or strong enough to catch themselves before they hit the floor or the edge of the counter.

And sometimes not.

“Dry Runs” can increase both balance and safety without having to end up in pediatric urgent care with a crying and bloody person.  And I don’t mean the child.  Face wounds bleed like anything.  The adult gets covered while cleaning up the kid, and both of them cry.  A lot.

Dry runs are when you practice getting on and off the potty, sometimes adding in lowering and raising clothes, and practicing wiping, then washing and drying hands.

Why is it magic?


Because there is no elimination urgency and no nakedness.  Nobody is cold.  Nobody has to “go”.  Nobody has to run to the bus or the office.  There is time to realize where things are going south, and work on those things.  Even if the child never gets very good at seeing the dangers, the adults see them.

They figure out that the toothbrush holder is distracting a child from looking at the footstool as they climb up.  They realize that the towel with Paw Patrol on it is also a distractor.  Or that the TP is too far away from the child and they lunge for it.  Or that this child really needs to sit to pee in order not to practically fall in while peeing.  Practice creates neurological maps in the brain, separate from critical thinking. Adults know that.  We would never be able to park a car if we had to think about every move.  We just…do it.  This happens to autistic kids when they are trained to use the potty.  They use the safe moves and they are safe.  Most of the time.


To read more about autism and potty training, read How To Speak With Your Autistic Child During Potty Training… to Get The Best Results!  and  What’s So Different About Potty Training An Autistic Child? .

Need a potty training book specifically for kids on the spectrum?

I wrote one just for you!


front cover

The Practical Guide to toilet Training the Autistic Child:  Sensory-Motor Secrets for Success is now available as an e-book on Your Therapy Source and as a paperback on (where else?) Amazon  !

This is my newest, and I believe it is my best, practical guide!

  • Learn what real potty training readiness is with a clear checklist that doesn’t tell you to wait forever to train.
  • Use the Resource List to grab the best equipment, making a hard job a little easier.
  • Explore the revolutionary concepts of targeted pre-training and Collaborative Diapering.  They work for every child at every level of ability.
  • Find out how to deal with the gnarliest problems in potty training:  smearing and playing with poop, defiance, fears, and more!
  • Help a child who has mastered the bathroom at home to use the public toilet without fear or resistance. 



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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