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3 Tips for Using Reward Charts when Toilet Training

Beginning the toilet training process with learners on the autism spectrum requires a thoughtful approach. For many learners, toileting is a scary process. Let’s face it, the method they have been using has been working fine for them for years! Stepping in and asking them to change this is not likely to succeed without a concrete plan. One tool that has proven to be a game-changer for me is the visual reward chart. In this blog post, we’ll explore how reward charts can be used to support the toilet training process, ensuring a smoother experience for both educators and learners.

Toilet Training Tip #1: Break it down

When beginning toilet training, a common mistake is to expect overnight success. Typically the process takes time and patience. You want to think about meeting your learner where they are in this process. For example, if they are afraid of the bathroom and/ or toilet, an initial goal may just be for them to enter the bathroom and sit on the toilet for five seconds, before even thinking about asking them to void on the potty. If they are more familiar with the toilet, you may want to use reserve a reward for sitting for longer periods of time, or voiding on the toilet. Regardless of their goal, a reward chart can help provide positive visual feedback!

Using the first example of a learner who is fearful of the bathroom, you could add a sticker on their chart each time they succeed in sitting on the toilet for five seconds. With the second example, a sticker could be provided each time a learner sits for 2 minutes, and/ or upon voiding on the toilet. Personalizing the goal for each learner is key to success when toilet training!

Toilet Training Tip #2: Consider a tangible reward

When toilet training, you may find that the immediate feedback of placing a sticker (or coloring a happy face) on their chart is motivating enough! Paired with positive praise, these visual markers can help increase a sense of pride and accomplishment in a learner. For other learners, however, it may be even more meaningful to attach a tangible reward, such as a snack, to the reward chart. For example, if they get three stickers on their reward chart, they could “cash in” for a small piece of candy or another preferred snack.

Often times I have began the toilet training process with an immediate tangible reward for the initial goal of successfully voiding on the toilet, and then transitioned to a printable reward chart when the learner is demonstrating a consistent level of success. In these cases, the chart provides structured, consistent visual motivation with stickers or coloring tokens in, but also allows us to wean off of direct reinforcement and move closer to the expectation of using the toilet independently.

Toilet Training Tip #3: Expect Setbacks

Whether using reward charts or not, regression during toilet training is extremely common. The slightest thing can throw off a child’s progress, such as changes in the home or school routine, illness, sleep patterns, or dietary changes. Try not to be discouraged if and when this happens. Using a printable reward chart can help keep a structured and consistent routine in place.

Knowing that regression is part of the process, it is essential to approach setbacks with compassion and understanding. Instead of viewing setbacks as failures, consider them as opportunities for learning and adjustment to your plan. Lowering your goal for a period of a few days may be necessary for long term success. Remember, the journey is unique for each learner, and a setback today doesn’t define success tomorrow.

Conclusion

Toilet training learners with autism requires patience, creativity, and commitment. Reward charts, when thoughtfully crafted and personalized, can be powerful tools in supporting this process. Remember to celebrate every success, no matter how small, and approach challenges with a mindset of collaboration and understanding.

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