We Made It Over The Potty Training Mountain

There are moments I know I am going to remember forever. And one of them is reading this text message from Cooper’s school.

He did it. He pooped at school. I want to be honest when I say I never fully believed that my autistic son would be potty trained. That’s how high the mountain was for him. At age six it felt like he was nowhere close. He loved his diapers. He refused to sit on the toilet for longer than 15 seconds and he’d scream and kick and hit if I tried to force the issue. If I refused to put him in a diaper the behaviors were even worse. At times it seemed like sitting in a soiled diaper didn’t bother him.

My son also had so many reasons why using the toilet seemed impossible. He is scared to poop on a toilet. He has severe sensory issues. He doesn’t know how to release his bowels without a diaper. He hates change. He’s pretty lazy. He loves diapers. I was up against all the tough parts of autism and potty training. I would try to describe how traumatic potty training was to him, and ultimately me, and I knew that most people didn’t believe me.

Potty Training Woes

I tried dozens and dozens of times over the past three years to get him trained. And I always gave up. For the first couple of years, ages three and four, he just wasn’t ready. Around age five he developed terrible constipation…which is now fixed. And then last week, I realized it was up to me to do this. If I wanted him out of diapers than I needed to get him trained.

My son is seven. He is smart and able to be potty trained. It’s time. I had to make the decision and reap the consequences. I also sorta felt like it was now or never. He was starting at a new school and setting the precedence of no diapers was the way to go .

Our family is also ready to be done with diapers. A one year old in diapers is cute. An almost seven year old is messy. That’s the part no one talks about outside the special needs world. It’s the secret part. Our beds and couches and carpet all smell like poop and pee. Incontinence is really, really frustrating. It’s messy. And it’s pretty defeating.

So, I started potty training him a week ago. I ‘threw’ all of the diapers out. Go big or go home is my motto. I know that nothing in our world is easy. And I mean that exactly how it sounds. A simple potty chart wasn’t going to work for Cooper. He doesn’t care about stickers or toys or rewards. I knew I couldn’t incentivize or reward him to use the toilet. I knew he was going to hold his poop in retaliation. I knew this. And yes, it scared me. With each day this past week I was getting slightly more panicked.

Who Is More Stubborn?

I realized by day three that we were in a stubborn battle of the wills. I just needed him to poop once on the toilet. I know my son very well and it only needed to happen once for his comfort level to improve. And for him to realize how to push. He was holding it and refusing to go and with each day my confidence and stubbornness was getting a little weaker.

Throughout the week I was monitoring his health VERY, VERY closely. I was watching to make sure he was still eating and drinking and not constipated. He was not. Although every time dad or someone mentioned putting a diaper on him I lost traction. Cooper is very smart. He wasn’t going down without a fight.

Sunday night we had an epic standoff. I told him it was time to use the toilet. I locked us in the bathroom. I sat in between his legs and talked with him, watched his Kindle, sang songs, and coached him through it. I took more hits to the head than I ever thought possible. I was obviously fine physically but wow was I rattled. We threw down and I refused to leave that bathroom until it happened. The whole situation was loud and stressful. Our sweet Boston TerrierĀ  was so stressed she threw up. When I am old and gray I will describe my life with one word…dramatic.

Trusting My Mommy Gut

After two hours it finally happened. He pooped. It took two full hours with lots of tears, motivation, hugs, cheering, kisses, and praising. But, he went. Once he was done he high fived me and went and had a cookie like it was no big deal.

I, on the other hand, was not fine. I felt like I had ran a marathon. But not just a physical one…an emotional one too. I seriously sat on the bathroom floor for another 20 minutes recovering.

This morning I called his school and explained that he had went poop at home but I was pretty sure it wouldn’t transfer over to school. I told them how worried I was that they would miss his signals. I worry that because he’s nonverbal and autistic he won’t know how to ask for help. I worry about everything. I asked them to watch him so close and celebrate any and all victories. And yes, I admitted that I was obsessed with poop. They get it though. They work with autistic kids daily.

I Knew He Could Do It

Then I received this text message and every bit of exhaustion and emotion came out me. Yes, I cried at my desk. This has been the hugest roller coaster and I know that everyone in my life wanted me to give up and put him in a diaper. And as his mom, I knew he could do it. I refused to give up. I trusted my mommy gut. I made the tough decisions and I stuck with it. And today, those skills transferred to school.

I know we aren’t in the clear. I know autism is always changing. I know that I’m not off the roller coaster. But I also know that I never thought this would happen. I secretly worried about changing an adult man’s diapers. So, it is safe to say, this is one of the biggest victories of my life. I potty trained my son.

He did it. I did it. Team Super Cooper is on top of the world today.

Never give up friends. Expect the most of your kids and know that no one else will ever hold them to a higher standard than you will as their parent. You got this.



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Finding Cooper's Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you're never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village....all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to my page!


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When my son was first diagnosed with autism no one was talking about it. Autism was hidden. I vow to change that.

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