How do I teach my autistic child to wipe their bottom properly?
One of the fundamental milestones for a child to independently use the bathroom is learning how to wipe their bottom properly to allow them to be alone in the bathroom without support from another person. The essentials of toilet training include, not just the child’s achievement of bowel and bladder control, but their understanding of bathroom cleanliness and hygiene. Being able to wipe by themselves is vital for a child’s independence and confidence.
When we teach a child any new skill, the first thing we do is consider what steps are involved. These are the steps that we commonly consider and teach (but can individualize to your child and adapt as needed).
Steps to wipe bottom after a poo
- Child pulls and tears at least 3 sheets of toilet paper
- Folds paper into flat palm shape in hand
- Reaches behind bottom
- Wipes toilet paper on self from front to back once
- Checks toilet paper for residue
- Identifies if toilet paper is ‘clean’ or ‘dirty’
- Drops paper into toilet
- Repeats steps 1-7 until toilet paper is clean.
- Stands up and continue the bathroom routine.
How to teach each step
To begin teaching these steps, you could start with physically guiding your child’s hand through each stage and assisting them. If physical assistance is a bit tricky, other ways could include modeling the action for your child. Through practice and as the child gets more familiar with each action, start to decrease how much assistance you provide. This could look like verbally reminding your child which step is next if they forget. Make sure to provide lots of positive reinforcement for each best attempt!! This could be verbal praise, stickers, treats, toys, social games, whatever your child enjoys!
Other tips and common barriers!
- It can sometimes be easier for a child to start with a baby wipe rather than with dry paper – teach both if needed!
- Make sure to always teach to wipe from front to back for both wees and poos! This is particularly important for girls
- If your child is struggling, they could be finding initial prerequisite skills difficult and may need to be taught these first. Skills that could be looked at with your child include:
- The motor skills required to reach, pull and tear the toilet paper
- Being able to twist their body to reach their bottom
- The motor skill of wiping can be taught first by itself by teaching the action of wiping paper on a table
- Make sure your child has adequate foot support so they can lean forward onto a stool and lift their bottom slightly so they can reach behind and wipe themselves
- How to teach how many times to wipe? There are multiple ways to teach this!
- One way is to teach the child to wipe as many times as needed until the paper is clean.
- You may need to teach the difference between when the paper is clean or dirty
- Another way is to teach a rule, for example, always wipe 5 times, and then stop.
If you are still struggling with teaching this particular skill or another related bathroom behaviour, such as washing their hands or standing at a urinal to wee, then you may want to consider a quick consultation with one of our toilet training experts that you can book here or contact [email protected] for more information.
Super Kids acknowledges each individual’s personal preference to use identity-first or person-first language to describe themselves or their loved one. We interchangeably use both language conventions and therefore refer to both autistic children and children with autism.