How iPods help potty-train kids with autism

U. ROCHESTER (US) — A new device could mean quicker and easier toilet-training for children with autism and other developmental disabilities.

Proper bathroom habits, which most people take for granted, are an important quality-of-life issue for many children with autism and their families.


(Credit: Brandon Vick/U. Rochester)

“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,” says 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 biomedical engineering, used fairly common items to construct their toilet-training device: sterile pads, a sensor, a Bluetooth-enabled transmitter, and an iPod. Dan Hansen, a freshman computer science major, 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 piece of music. At the same time, an alarm is activated on an iPod being worn by a teacher or caregiver, who can then assist the child in using the toilet. If the child successfully uses the bathroom, 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 wireless technology with limited capabilities,” says 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.”

“As an increasing number of children are diagnosed with autism, we are increasing our efforts to include these children into the mainstream of everyday life,” says 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.”

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 under way.

Source: University of Rochester

chat12 Comments


  1. Himanshu

    Excellent innovation by U of R researchers!

  2. Karen

    this is great – a friend of mine has twins – one autistic, one not. The autistic one was barely potty-trained for the start of Kindergarten, other by 3.5 yrs old. This can be a big issue for being able to get care/schooling for autistic kids!

  3. dave george

    Tinkletoonz has had a similar musical device for over 8 years now….and there is no need for iPods or iPads or anything else…..just the musical sensor………AND…..IT REALLY WORKS !!

  4. MIRKA

    Potty training is a big step for kids and parents alike. The secret to success? Patience — perhaps more patience than you ever imagined.
    Potty-training success hinges on physical and emotional readiness, not a specific age. Many kids show interest in potty training by age 2, but others might not be ready until age 2 1/2 or even older — and there’s no rush. If you start potty training too early, it might take longer to train your child.
    MORE INFO: http://tinyurl.com/nhbyjun

  5. yhasmin

    teach child potty
    One of the stages of development of children that parents often wait anxiously ‘s time to remove the diaper.
    After changing diapers about two thousand a year ( estimated about 6 a day) , you’re probably wishing your child starts to go to the bathroom alone .
    But few parents are prepared for the time it actually takes that process.
    Some children learn in a few days , but many others take several months. In general, the smaller the child to start training, the longer it takes to learn.
    More info: http://teachyourchildgotothebathroom.blogspot.com/

  6. Tony

    How can I get an Ipod free to help my 6 year old autistic daughter potty train we are at wits end

  7. susan

    Where can I find one of these I pods at I have a five yr old autistic boy who isn’t potty trained yet I need help! Are these free? Or insurance covers them?

  8. Kyle Coffee

    I see this story was posted over a year ago. Has the product become available to the general public by now?

  9. KR

    Please provide updates on obtaining this iPod. There are many parents in need of this and yet no one has responded to any of the comments.

  10. Children Needs Special

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  11. Amina

    My son is almost 5 now and me and my teenaged daughters are exhausted by accidents during the day and nights. Is this product available or is there an app? Please please help!

  12. Yuderca

    My son has 5 years and a halft I have been training him for one years and he doesn’t want to use the toilet yet. I’m single mother is only me for everything im really tired please help me.

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