Toilet training For Autism Child – Understanding Interoception

Toilet training For Autism Child - Understanding Interoception

Interoception, the eighth sense, is the awareness of how we feel inside our bodies. It refers to recognizing and understanding our body’s internal state, for example, when we feel “hungry” after not eating for a while, when we feel tired, when we feel like we need to go to the bathroom, when we feel hot or cold, etc. Because internal awareness is linked to autonomic motor control, it can generate distinct emotions and elicit responses from the body, such as irritability or grunting when hungry, sleepiness, or yawning when tired.

We often see people with autism or other neurological disorders who have developmental challenges.  This can be seen in children who have difficulty with potty training, binge eating, not eating enough, or insisting on wearing short sleeves even when it’s cold.  How does this sense of interoception develop? The development of interoception in humans begins early and continues through childhood and adolescence, with individual differences, such as genetics, temperament, and early experiences. Interoceptive development is a dynamic process alongside other cognitive, emotional, and social aspects. It is important to understand that it will not change or improve instantly with forced training, education, punishment, or rewards.

When helping a child with autism to toilet train, think of it as a marathon, and don’t try to fix it immediately, as this can damage the child’s self-esteem and social relationships.

The issues with this sensory system will resolve naturally with patience and increased overall awareness of their body, which is enhanced by rich emotional and sensory-rich interactions. We emphasize this most at DIR Floortime, and it is an essential premise for a child’s development.

Other factors may affect a child’s potty training, such as discomfort with the touch of the toilet seat or other sensory sensations and negative feedback. The most important thing to avoid is undue stress or worry about your child’s inability to toilet train, as this will not help the training process and may even have a negative impact. 

If you think your child is not quite there yet, be patient and spend more time with your child to fully attune and connect, be engaged, have fun, rich, warm sensory play, and be happy to let your child use your body as a toy.  Remember! You are the best ‘Toy‘ for your child.

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