Mastering the use of a toilet is different for every child.  All children develop differently which means that some may be ahead of their peers and siblings, whilst others may take slightly longer – this is normal. Children with additional needs will have a variation of toileting and this is individual to each child.

Wall sign for toilets

When is the right time?

It is important that we don’t push children into this too early as this could have an impact on their emotions, confidence and in some cases could lead to more problems. We should wait until a child starts showing a readiness, interest or awareness of needing to use the toilet. See the information leaflets below for further advice.

Should you have any concerns or require further support around toileting, then please contact your Public Health Nurse or Child Development Practitioner via the Public Health Nursing Service.

Emotional responses

Some children may have a fear or anxiety around using toilets. This emotional response could be in relation to a previous incident, the environment, embarrassment or a social worry. Public toilets are not always pleasant and can often be harsh on our senses, some can be cold and echoey, some can be small with strong smells of cleaning products whilst other may appear nice but have a noisy hand dryer right next to the door. Some children may need gradual exposure and some desensitisation work around accessing bathroom environments which involves lots of reassurance and positive reinforcement. You can discuss this with your health visitor, school nurse or occupational therapist.

Constipation in children

Constipation in children is common, particularly when children are being potty trained around 2 to 3 years old.


Toileting can be seen as a routine or a process which requires specific steps. Sometimes, a picture process guide can be useful to display on the bathroom wall which gives simple step by step instructions for children to follow. This may include steps such as, "we close the door", "we pull our trousers and pants down", "we sit on the toilet", "we flush" and so on….. this can be created to your child’s current level of understanding and can involve more or less steps.

Toileting process chart


A child should never be forced or pressured into using the toilet as this can reinforce any fear or resistance they have to accessing toileting facilities. As parents, we should always remain calm and communication should be clear, concise and positive. We should never make a child feel ashamed or bad for unsuccessful toilet attempts or wetting accidents.

Any reinforcement needs to be provided after the entire toileting routine is completed. Providing reinforcement following completion of each part of the routine may serve to interupt completion of the entire sequence.

Toilet training for individuals with autism & related disorders | Maria Wheeler, M.Ed.

Resources and support

Where to access support

0-19 Public Health Nursing Service
01226 774411

Continence and urology service
01226 644575

The continence and urology service provides specialist bladder and bowel assessment, treatment and management for service users with an identified incontinence problem.

Information and resources


The URApp is specially designed to support young people with daytime wetting and urgency.


'Just Can't Wait' Card | BBUK
Althought access is never guaranteed, the cards are widely accepted and acknowledged.

Radar NKS Keys | Disability Rights UK
The National Key Scheme (NKS) offers people with disabilities independent access to locked public toilets around the country. Toilets fitted with National Key Scheme (NKS) locks can now be found in shopping centres, pubs, cafés, department stores, bus and train stations and many other locations in most parts of the country.

Countrywide Health Care
Grimethorpe, Barnsley | 01226 719090
 A local supplier of Continence products including oversided pull-ups.

Recommended reading list

Everybody Poos | Taro Gomi
ISBN: 9781849058339

Poo Poo Bum Bum Wee Wee | Steven Cowell
ISBN: 024147308X

Potty Superstar | Pat-a-Cake, Fiona Munro, et al.
ISBN: 1526381516 (for girls) -or- ISBH: 1526381508 (for Boys)

Ready, Set, Potty!: Toilet Training for Children with Autism and Other Developmental Disorders | Brenda Batts – ISBN:9781849058339

The gentle potty training book | Sarah Ockwell-Smith
ISBN: 0349414440

Did this information help you?

  • Page last reviewed: 8 January 2024
  • Next review due: 6 January 2025