Familiar consumer electronics are used to help toilet-train children with autism

August 16, 2013
The toilet-training device consists of an iPod, transmitter, and a pad/sensor. Credit: Brandon Vick/University of Rochester

Proper bathroom habits, which most people take for granted, are an important quality-of-life issue for many children with autism and their families. A new device developed at the University of Rochester is showing promise of reducing the time and effort required to toilet-train children with autism and other developmental disabilities.

"We have research that shows it can take a family a year-and-a-half to toilet-train a child with autism or other developmental disability" said Daniel W. Mruzek, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Rochester Medical Center. "In the initial pilot, our device drastically reduced that time to just a few weeks."

Mruzek and Stephen McAleavey, associate professor of , used fairly common items to construct their toilet-training device: sterile pads, a sensor, a Bluetooth-enabled transmitter, and an iPod. They received some help from Dan Hansen, a freshman computer science major, who wrote the software for the project.

When a drop of urine is detected on a pad, a signal is sent to the iPod, triggering a sound or . At the same time, an alarm is activated on an iPod being worn by a teacher or , who can then assist the child in using the toilet. If the child successfully uses the facilities, the iPod offers up a reward in the form of a game, song, or photo.

Their toilet-training device is an upgrade from a model they developed six years earlier. "It originally had a larger pad and was based on a very rudimentary with limited capabilities," said McAleavey. "This updated device is more comfortable, lasts longer, and allows us to incorporate more features, such as allowing progress reports to be emailed to the child's physician or other clinician."

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

The University of Rochester is collaborating with Vanderbilt University and Nationwide Children's Hospital on a new round of clinical testing, which has just gotten underway.

"As an increasing number of are diagnosed with autism, we are increasing our efforts to include these children into the mainstream of everyday life," said Mruzek. "To our way of thinking, that makes it all the more important to break down the social barriers facing these children, including dependence upon others for bathroom needs."

Explore further: When and how to toilet train children

Related Stories

When and how to toilet train children

August 8, 2011

Parents often ask their doctors for advice on toilet training young children, and a new article in CMAJ summarizes current approaches and evidence to help physicians respond to these queries.

Potty-training pitfalls and how to avoid them

June 21, 2013

(HealthDay)—Incorrectly toilet training children can lead to problems ranging from bed-wetting and daytime accidents to urinary tract infections, so it's important to get it right, an expert says.

UN declares World Toilet Day

July 24, 2013

The United Nations on Wednesday declared November 19 as World Toilet Day following a proposal by Singapore whose envoy said he did not care if jokes are made.

Recommended for you

Low glycemic index diet reduces symptoms of autism in mice

June 9, 2015

Bread, cereal and other sugary processed foods cause rapid spikes and subsequent crashes in blood sugar. In contrast, diets made up of vegetables, fruits and whole grains are healthier, in part because they take longer to ...

Neuroscientists reveal autism's 'noisy' secret

May 26, 2015

Strapped into a motion-enabled simulator and wearing 3D glasses, 36 adolescent volunteers recently experienced what it was like to "travel" through a field of virtual stars. The experiments provided new and convention-busting ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.