Potty Training for Kids with Special Needs (Part 2)

Last time we posted, we gave you a bunch of different ideas for how to adapt your potty training experience to help accommodate your child’s disability. This week, we are going to cover how to start the training process and give you some extra tools that might help make things a little easier.

Potty Training for Kids with Special Needs (Part 2)

(Pixabay / Seaq68)

What to Do

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for every child, but there are some things that can help keep your potty training experience a positive one– especially if your child needs a little extra help in order to be successful. Before you even think about moving into the potty training process, start keeping a record of when your child goes #1 and #2. If you figure out a rough daily schedule, it will be easier for you to spot the signs that your child needs to use the toilet, which will help him connect with his natural rhythm.

You can then start to generate interest in the bathroom by letting your child flush the toilet, move the seat up and down, and practice hand washing. This is also the time to practice pulling on and off clothing in preparation for using the potty. Be sure to practice using a good step stool so that your child feels confident in getting up and down to the seat without being afraid of falling. Some step stools are even connected to a potty seat that has handles for greater stability. The key here is to be low-key and low-pressure so that each step just becomes something you do before using the potty.

Once your child has the logistics down pat, start building up a routine. Most children respond really well to song, and Daniel Tiger has a pretty catchy one to help them remember the routine.

“If you have to go potty, STOP!

And go right away.

Flush, and wash, and be on your way!”

For kids who are nonverbal or who have significant developmental delays, you may need to start by having them sit on the potty for just a few seconds in the beginning and gradually increase the time. Physical timers work wonders in this department.

Most kids need several demonstrations on how to do the potty routine correctly, so be prepared to explain each step as you do it.

And of course, the rewards. It seems like every parent has a different approach to the reward system, but positive reinforcement is absolutely necessary when you’re toilet training. Whether you choose a sticker chart, chocolate chips, or points toward a new toy is up to you, but you need to select something that will be motivating to your child. How your child responds to the reward system will change throughout the potty training process, so you should also be prepared for that. In the beginning, you’ll be rewarding for every single little step in the right direction, even if that means celebrating when your child has an accident but was trying to get to the potty. As your child becomes a pro at potty training, however, you will need to space out the rewards a little bit more and perhaps make them a little more substantial.

The last big thing to remember is how you communicate with your child as he is toilet training. Steer clear of words like “dirty” or “gross” or “nasty” because children sometimes have difficulty understanding that they aren’t the dirty, gross, or nasty thing that you are talking about. Stick to anatomically-correct body part identifiers, and use consistent words for poop and pee. Remember, you may not be the only person in your child’s life who helps him with toileting, so try to stay away from slang words for the toileting process.

One last piece of advice: find humor in the process. It can be extremely frustrating as you’re mopping up yet another yellow puddle or scrubbing that little brown present out of the third pair of underwear that week, but try to keep things light. If you need to take a moment to compose yourself before tackling the clean-up, do so, but try not to get after your child for the mess. Negative experiences with the potty can lead to regressions, constipation, and other behavior problems, so while you may want to scream and shout, it’s better for everyone if you take a moment and start again with a smile on your face.

Helpful Tools

We recently published a list of cool gadgets to help with the potty training process, but here are a few more that offer some more concrete aid for kids with disabilities.

  • Wall-secured training urinal: This urinal has a fun little spinner to help with aiming, and it may make potty training easier for some boys with physical barriers.
  • Pee guard: There are a couple of kinds of pee guards to help with the toilet training process. One type attaches to the front to help keep the legs and front of the seat safe from spray. Another kind attaches to the back of the toilet seat to turn any seat into a urinal.
  • Squatty Potty: The Squatty Potty not only doubles as a very sturdy step stool, but it also encourages the correct position for pooping. This can really help kids who struggle with constipation.
  • Potty Training Dolls: If you think about it, using the toilet is somewhat of an abstract concept, so if your child needs more concrete evidence of how it all works, look for a potty training doll. These dolls can help solidify the concept that food and drink turn into poop and pee because once your child “feeds” the doll, he will need to put the doll on the potty so that there isn’t a mess. If you’re not comfortable demonstrating the potty training process for your child, this is a good alternative.
  • Timer Watch: This tool is mentioned on the other page, but it’s worth mentioning here, too. Instead of asking your child a million times a day to go to the toilet, the timer watch buzzes at set intervals to remind him to head to the toilet.
  • Peejamas: Our disposable diaper alternatives are another great tool to help with nighttime toilet training. The super absorbent pajama bottoms stops nighttime puddles and can help make the child feel more successful and independent. They also save a lot of money since they can be reused up to 300 times—and save the planet, too, since they’re not contributing to diaper waste in landfills.

We hope that this article and its predecessor have given you a few ideas for how to help your child be confident as you embark on this next stage of childhood.

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