Quick Trainer Device Shows Potential for Toilet Training Children with Autism

The toilet-training device consists of an iPod, transmitter, and a pad/sensor. (Photo by Brandon Vick/University of Rochester.)

The toilet-training device consists of an iPod,
transmitter, and a pad/sensor.
(Photo by Brandon Vick/University of Rochester.)

A new toilet training device developed by researchers at the University of Rochester in Rochester, New York shows potential in reducing the time it takes to toilet train children with autism. Called Quick Trainer, the device consists of a disposable, self-adhesive pad with a built-in sensor, an iPod, and a reusable Bluetooth transmitter. The child wears the pad with the sensor in his or her underwear. When a drop of urine is detected on the pad, the sensor sends a signal through the Bluetooth device to the iPod, which plays a sound signaling the child that he or she has begun to urinate.

The device also sends a signal to an iPod held by an adult who can then assist the child in getting to the bathroom. If the child is successful in the toileting process, the adult can log the child’s success into the iPod application. The iPod will then offer the child a reward, such as a game, song, or photo. The iPod application has been designed so that one adult can monitor several toileting devices at the same time.

Quick Trainer was developed by Daniel W. Mruzek, associate professor of pediatrics, and Steven McAleavey, associate professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Rochester Medical Center. They report that the device operates at a range of 150 feet outdoors and 30 feet indoors through walls. Preliminary testing of Quick Trainer showed favorable results. Children as old as 15 years with severe intellectual disabilities were able to use the toilet without accidents after 1 to 2 months.

It typically takes 1 to 2 years to toilet train a child with autism using traditional methods, with some children having to wear disposable underwear due to accidents. Researchers report that children using the Quick Trainer device who cannot communicate the need to go do develop signs of needing to go after using the device for a period of time, such as rocking, vocalizing, or grabbing the iPod.

The Quick Trainer device is still in the testing stage. Research is currently being funded by the Autism Treatment Network.