Autism and Incontinence

Incontinence affects more than 35 million Americans, according to the National Association for Continence (NAFC). Dealing with incontinence can be difficult but helping a child with a disability such as autism learn to manage incontinence can be especially challenging.   

As a child, learning to use the bathroom is a normal part of development. For some children with autism, however, other factors can play a part in how they learn to use the toilet.  

Incontinence may come in many forms, but there are some common ways to approach the situation. Most call them “The 5 Ps,” and they can help make treatment more tolerable for caregivers and contribute to a real opportunity for improvement: 


Try not to place blame for setbacks. Instead, the caregiver should provide positive encouragement and do their best to maintain a good sense of humor – it will pay off in so many ways. 


Progress may be slow, but don’t give up. Having a positive outlook and setting sensible goals can reduce frustration for everyone. 


Take the time to schedule activities – even simple ones done around the house – and make sure to stick to that schedule. Communications planning is just as important. Make sure that teachers, caregivers and anyone else who shares responsibility for the child knows what they need to know about the child’s situation and can take appropriate action if needed. 


In most cases, that means trying and trying again. Test different treatments, ask healthcare professionals for recommendations and see if there are certain products or programs that work better for the child. 


It may not always be realistic to expect a cure, but there are things caregivers can do – tactics, treatments and products – that can make the child much more comfortable and life much easier. 

It’s important to note: many children with autism have no problems with incontinence, and for those that do the severity of their condition can vary greatly. In addition, many children continue to develop over time and can improve their condition with the proper help and instruction from a caregiver.   

For more help, download the brochure, Continence Support for Children with Disabilities at NAFC.

*Disclaimer: Any health and wellness content presented is for general informational purposes only. Such content is not intended to replace or serve as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.