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Monday

Potty Training-empasis on Train

One of my favorite moments in parenting my son, who is diagnosed as having an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as a pre-schooler is potty training.

My son would not potty train. He could care less if he was wet. He was too busy with his trains to bother with it. Encouragement did not reach him, sticker charts were ignored. I even resorted to bribery! I scoured the library and the Internet for tips on potty training. (Keep in mind, I am the oldest of four children, this child is the youngest of three children-it is not like I did not have any experience myself yet nothing worked.) I begged, I bullied, I promised, I praised.  For not one success, not one effort on his part.

Then I discovered something amazing. Printable Iron On's! I created page after page of Thomas the Tank Engine iron ons. I then ironed them onto EVERY pair of underwear he owned. I also made a wonderful T-shirt with Thomas the tank going into a tunnel on the front, and coming out of the tunnel on the back.

I pointed out to my seemingly uninterested child that Thomas was on his underwear. I showed him the Shirt. I told him that if he learned to use the toilet I would GIVE him the shirt. I also told him (smiling) that Thomas did not like to get wet. I reminded him of the episode in which Thomas got cranky when he got we.  I showed him the toilet and the seat for kids. I told him he could come get me and I would help him set up the toilet.
The whole time he was doing that blank look. He did not respond in anyway. Disheartened, I left him at his train table and threw on the laundry.
I was still sorting out socks from the dryer when I hear the toilet flush. Surprised (the other children were at school and pre-school, so we were alone) I went to investigate.
My son was standing in the bathroom, pants off, underwear in his hand, feeling his underwear carefully. (I think he was making sure Thomas was dry!). He looked at me and held out his hand. (he would hold out his hand if he wanted something) I cheered "Yeah! you did it!!! awesome job!!" He grunted at me and held out his hand again.

I asked if he wanted a treat, he started to fidget (Usually, for him, a sign of being agitated. Fidgeting preceded many a meltdown) A drink? A snack? A Hug? (more fidgeting). He stomped over to where I had put the shirt, stared at it, then looked RIGHT at ME and held out his hand.
I was floored. I gave him the shirt, helped him to put it on (and his underpants and pants). He wandered off to play with his trains and left me standing there. It was the FIRST time he had demonstrated that he understood when I babbled at him. It was the first time I realized that it wasn't about what he 'could not' do, but more about what he 'could be motivated' to do. I cried. I giggled. It was one of those wow moments. It was the moment when I realized he WAS going to learn, but not unless the lessons were adapted to have meaning for HIM.
(At nearly 11 years of age he still wets his bed quite regularly. But he has not had an 'accident' during waking hours since the 'Thomas' day.)

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