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

August 16, 2013, University of Rochester
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."

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: Potty-training pitfalls and how to avoid them

Related Stories

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.

Potty-training method won't affect tot's health, study finds

October 29, 2012
(HealthDay)—One less thing for toddlers' parents to stress over: A new study finds that toilet-training methods aren't the cause of urinary problems in children.

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.

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.

American Academy Of Pediatrics offers second edition of autism toolkit for clinicians

October 20, 2012
To help pediatricians in diagnosing and managing autism spectrum disorders in children, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is offering an extensively revised and updated second edition of its autism toolkit, "Autism: ...

Recommended for you

Genes contribute to biological motion perception and its covariation with autistic traits

January 22, 2018
Humans can readily perceive and recognize the movements of a living creature, based solely on a few point-lights tracking the motion of the major joints. Such exquisite sensitivity to biological motion (BM) signals is essential ...

Nearly imperceptible fluctuations in movement correspond to autism diagnoses

January 17, 2018
A new study led by researchers at Indiana University and Rutgers University provides the strongest evidence yet that nearly imperceptible changes in how people move can be used to diagnose neurodevelopmental disorders, including ...

Epigenetics study helps focus search for autism risk factors

January 16, 2018
Scientists have long tried to pin down the causes of autism spectrum disorder. Recent studies have expanded the search for genetic links from identifying genes toward epigenetics, the study of factors that control gene expression ...

Being bilingual may help autistic children

January 16, 2018
Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) often have a hard time switching gears from one task to another. But being bilingual may actually make it a bit easier for them to do so, according to a new study which was recently ...

No rise in autism in US in past three years: study

January 2, 2018
After more than a decade of steady increases in the rate of children diagnosed with autism in the United States, the rate has plateaued in the past three years, researchers said Tuesday.

Autism therapy: Brain stimulation restores social behavior in mice

December 13, 2017
Scientists are examining the feasibility of treating autistic children with neuromodulation after a new study showed social impairments can be corrected by brain stimulation.

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.