Why Hydration is Your Superpower When Potty Training an Autistic Child

child drinking

Hydration…a fancy name for drinking enough water.

It could be the key to successfully potty training an autistic child.


 Because if nothing much is going in, or nothing healthy is going in, nothing good will come out.


A child who has a history of struggling to nurse or feed from a bottle often turns into a toddler and preschooler that drinks as little as possible.  They may have mastered the Sippy cup and a straw, but there is still some lingering challenge or resistance to drinking.  Parents can have PTSD from those past episodes and be grateful that their child is drinking anything at all without choking or vomiting.

When the amount of fluid is low, digestion slows to a crawl and stays there.  Chronic constipation can be so bad that kids start to have diarrhea-like experiences.  Their bellies are still big.  New poop is flowing around the old compacted poop (I know; you should not be eating during this post).  Toilet training cannot be successful in this situation.  The problems of diet and digestion have to be solved first.

Increasing the amount of fluid a child is drinking every day, enough for them to have easy bowel movements, is essential for successful potty training.  But…

big hat girl drinking

Not every drink is the right choice for successful potty training.

Some beverage choices make it harder for an autistic child to poop!

There are kids who love to drink.  They will suck down one juice box after another.  This is not the kind of hydration that makes pooping easier.  Juice contains sugar, even if it is organic natural sugar from the fruit that was squeezed to produce the juice.  Sugar is a known trigger for diarrhea.  Constipation can grind training to a halt, but so can diarrhea.  Young kids with a limited ability to interpret the signs of urgency can have some spectacular accidents.  It is unlikely that a young autistic child ate a kale salad with a box of whole grain crackers.

It is far more likely they were mainlining juice.

There is some good news.

Many kids will not notice if their juice gets thinner over time.  This requires pre-treating a juice box with some water or making a batch of thinned-out juice to pour into a cup.  Some foods are higher in water content, making it easier to add water to a child’s diet.  Flavored sparkling water can be just as desirable to a child as it is to an adult.  Finally, a fun cup, a swirly straw, or ice cubes in shapes or cubes frozen with pieces of fruit inside them can make drinking more a fun thing.

Want more ideas for potty training an autistic child?

I wrote a book for you!

front cover

The Practical Guide to Toilet Training the Autistic Child is now available on  Amazon and on Your Therapy Source!

Filled with both explanations for all the struggles, and advice you can use to make potty training a success, it is an essential tool for parents and professionals alike.

  • There are no charts to fill out, no diaries to complete.  Only practical strategies and useful tips.
  • Learn about Collaborative Diapering; the strategy that allows any child at any stage of readiness to make progress…today!
  • Learn how to build motivation and address all of the issues that stop potty training in its tracks:  smearing, defiance, and withholding.
  • Learn what true readiness is, and how to develop it instead of waiting for it!

puzzle envelope

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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