Toilet Potty Training: Readiness Factors

  • Situation

    My child has special needs and is not currently potty trained on the toilet. How will I know when they are ready to begin toilet training?

  • Summary

    There are a number of factors to consider when deciding to start a toilet training program with your child. A way to look at “readiness” for toilet training is to consider and review sets of behaviors which are demonstrated during successful toilet training. Complete an assessment and use the data collected to guide you as you determine your child’s readiness for a toilet training program. 

  • Definition

    A number of factors and behaviors can be reviewed prior to the start of a toilet training program in order to determine if the child is “ready” for toilet training. 

    Determining readiness is based on two key factors: a review of assessment data and answers to questions in regard to toilet training readiness.

  • Quick Facts

    • Child's Age: 3-5, 6-10
    • Planning Effort: Moderate
    • Difficulty Level: Moderate
  • Pre-requisites

    Assessment data form; time to take student/child to the bathroom on a 30 minute time schedule to check for elimination

  • Process

    1. Print and post an elimination data sheet in the bathroom most frequently used by your child/student. 


    1. Take your child/student to the bathroom every 30 minutes and record if they are: dry, urinated, had a bowel movement, or if they urinated and had a bowel movement. 


    1. After two weeks of data collection in this manner, review the information and identify any patterns in the responses. 


    1. Consider the following questions: 
    • Is your child/student dry for 1 to 2 hours at a time?
    • Is there a pattern to the child/student’s wetting/soiling? 
    • Does the child/student show any indication that they are aware of being wet or soiled? 
    • Does the child/student pause while in the act of wetting or soiling? 
    1. If the answer is no to all of the questions, the student may not be ready for a toilet training program.
    2. If the answer is yet to any of the questions, consider implementing a toileting program.
  • Documents and Related Resources

    Ironman Potty Story (Word document)


    Ironman Potty Story (PDF)


    Toilet Training Schedules and Data Sheets


    Toilet Training for Individuals with Autism & Related Disorders (sample retail site to purchase book)



    If you have questions or concerns about the Watson Institute’s use of this information, please contact us.