Asa and Priscilla Maass have tried various ways to potty train their daughter, Abbie. Abbie has autism and is completely non-verbal. She communicates with her family and caregivers using an iPad app and a modified form of sign language.
She’s a beautiful and intelligent girl, but sometimes she struggles with verbal comprehension and learning certain tasks, like potty training—a task that can be difficult because it involves so many steps.
Abbie is a pre-teen now, and nothing has ever really been successful until this method. Since she is beyond the traditionally acceptable age for toilet training, and because she learns a little differently than neurotypical kids, it’s been difficult to find something that works for her and her family and caregivers. Now that her parents have switched her to discrete trial training, however, she’s almost completely potty trained.
Discrete trial potty training involves lots of work at first. It can take over your whole day when you first get started, because you’ll be taking your child or the person you care for to the bathroom maybe as many as four times per hour. It involves patience, timers, and plenty of consistence. But it will be worth it to be able to teach them to do this task on their own.
The key behind discrete trial training is breaking down each part of the task into the simplest steps. At first, you’ll need to guide the person’s hands to make it clear exactly what you’re asking them to do. As you move on with training, you’ll likely be able to use a verbal command or just point with your finger to remind them what the steps are if they forget. And eventually, of course, the goal is for you to be able to be completely uninvolved in the process.
In the video below, Asa will explain how he and his family trained Abbie using discrete trial training. He and Abbie will walk you through their method, as well, to show you how it works. If you haven’t had much success with other methods of potty training, you need to see this!
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?