Tips for Potty Training Children with Special Needs
Potty training kids is a difficult task for many families. Sometimes, kids who show signs of potty training resistance early on will eventually become potty trained. This is not always the case for children with developmental delays or special needs such as autism, Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy, etc. They may be more difficult to potty train than others.
Signs of Readiness
Most children show signs of physical readiness to begin using the toilet as toddlers, usually between 18 months and 3 years of age. But not all children have the intellectual and/or psychological readiness to be trained. Therefore, it is important to keep track of your child’s developmental level rather than his chronological age in mind when you start toilet training.
Signs of intellectual and psychological readiness includes:
- Being able to follow simple instructions
- Being cooperative
- Being uncomfortable with dirty diapers and wanting them to be changed
- Understanding full bladder or bowel movement
- Asking to use potty chair or to wear regular underwear
Signs of physical readiness includes:
- Being able to tell when they are about to urinate or have a bowel movement
- Staying dry for at least 2 hours at a time
- Having regular bowel movements
Problems in Potty Training Children with Special Needs
Kids with special needs or physical disabilities may have other problems with potty training. They may need a special chair and other adaptations to learn to use the toilet. An important part of potty training children with special needs includes using the potty seat frequently. You can try scheduled toileting – a technique that gives your child frequent opportunities to use the toilet. Ensure they sit on the potty seat every few hours, even if they say they don’t want to. Avoid forcing if the child is totally resistant. Try changing this routine if it gets too demanding for your child. Remember that having accidents or occasionally refusing to use the potty is normal and not considered resistance.
Positive Practice for Accidents
This is yet another useful technique to help kids learn potty training techniques. It details how a parent should react when your child has an accident and wets or soils himself. It involves firmly telling your child what he has done, taking him to the potty to clean him up, and then having him practice using the potty. Make sure when you’re trying to teach your child about consequences of having an accident, it should not come across as a punishment.
Although it can take some time and requires a lot of patience, many children with special needs can be potty trained by the time they are 5 years old. If you continue to have problems or your child is resistant, consider getting professional help. Apart from your child’s pediatrician, you may also get help from an Occupational Therapist, especially if your child has some motor delays causing the potty training difficulty, or a Child Psychologist if your child is simply resistant to potty training.