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Dr. Sue Bettison, B.A. (Hons.), Dip. Ed., Ph. D.

Dr Sue BettisonSue Bettison is a research and clinical psychologist with over forty years of experience and an international reputation for her work in the fields of intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorder. This followed twelve years in education and tertiary teaching.
Her work with people with autism began as Honorary Consultant Psychologist to the Autistic Children's Association of South Australia during its formative years in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  She has held senior positions in State services for people with developmental disabilities in both South Australia and New South Wales and has lectured throughout Australia and overseas. She returned to specializing in Autism Spectrun Disorders in 1987 when she was appointed Director of Professional Services by the Autistic Association of New South Wales, a position that was widened to Chief Executive Officer in 1989. She stepped down from this position in 1992 to establish the Association’s first large scale research project investigating new treatments for abnormal responses to sound.  

Sue’s background is in education, child development and psychology, with an active engagement in research, clinical practice, service management, and policy formulation.  She has many publications to her name and has initiated a number of innovative and successful services for people with Developmental Disabilities in both South Australia and New South Wales.  Her major research has led to practical programs for bladder and bowel control, behaviour management and the alleviation of abnormal responses to sound.  She has been an Associate Editor of the Journal of Intellectual and developmental disabilities since 1977, and has been involved in a number of Government committees and inquiries in relation to developmental disabilities over the years.
Sue’s work in the area of incontinence has been ground-breaking.  She began the search for effective toilet training programs in 1972.  Her initial eight years of research led to  successful programs for incontinence in developmental disability and autism spectrum disorders and have never been superceded.  She has conducted seminars and workshops in approaches to the treatment of incontinence for professionals and parents around Australia and in the US and Great Britain since the late 1970s.

Throughout her career she has helped hundreds of parents and those who work with them successfully toilet train children with the full range of developmental and autism spectrum disorders.  She finally retired from clinical practice, more or less, in 2008 and immediately set about writing “Toilet Training for Children with Autism or Intellectual Disabilities”. This is now in book form and available for the first time on this web site.



Forever grateful

We were typical parents of a child with autism, struggling to control some of our daughter Jessica’s more challenging behaviours. At about 7 years of age, she became aggressive and directed much of this aggression towards children younger than herself. Playgrounds had to be carefully chosen for outings, as this was a common venue for her inappropriate, upsetting and sudden outbursts.

The arrival of her younger sister to our family, seven years her junior, exacerbated the situation. Now around-the-clock, stress-filled vigilance became a necessity. It was at this stage that we were referred to Dr Sue Bettison. Sue had us implement a carefully constructed `time-out’ strategy, in which we would remove Jessica to a `time out room’, where she would remain for three minutes, each and every time she even attempted to push or hit another child. We were warned that “things are going to get worse before they get better” and Sue was right about that. However, Sue constantly reassured us that if we persisted with her strategy and applied it in a consistent manner, that we would eventually modify Jessica’s behaviour.

Sue’s intervention was in hindsight, a turning point for our family. We found that the `time outs’ became less and less necessary and our younger daughter was able to feel more comfortable and relaxed around her older sibling for the first time. In fact now, several years later, they are great mates.

`Consistency’ in the application of behavioral strategies was always key to their success. This was a message Sue would constantly reinforce with us. It was tough for us sometimes, Sue understood that, but she also knew that if parents failed to be consistent, they sent mixed messages to a child and there would be no lasting success.

Sue became our wise sage; our mentor. We turned to her whenever new challenges arose. We were always confident in her expertise and in the knowledge that if we carried out her instructions, we would achieve the desired result.

An unexpected onset of nightly bedwetting when Jessica was 10 years old, again saw us turn to Sue for advice. She had us use a urine sensitive rubber pad, placed under Jessica’s bedsheet which would ring a bell loudly, when accidents occurred. Again, our responses to these accidents had to be consistent and we followed her instructions to the letter. The bed wetting ceased after several weeks – never to occur again!

We will be forever grateful to Sue, not only for providing us with successful strategies, but also for instilling knowledge about autism. Her intervention put us on the correct path that enabled us to take control of our situation and provide our family with a happy, stable and understanding environment.

Cathy Madden
Mother of Jessica

Positive Results

This book will definitely bring you and your child positive results from following Dr Sue's toileting program. It is extremely worthwhile in assisting anyone with a child who has toileting issues. I am a mother of an 8-year-old girl who has Autism. We have known Dr Sue for some time. I am pleased to say that my daughter is toilet trained, thanks to Dr Sue's great program.

Dr Sue's toileting plan is well thought out, the charts that you use which are in this book are a great resource tool for you to see your child's progress. Dr Sue's years of experience and her understanding of children with special needs makes the whole process so much easier for you and your child.

Gina Natale-Pace
Mother of Isabelle