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Ilana Danneman
BY Ilana Danneman

10 Tips for when your Child with Special Needs has Trouble With the “Throne”

When my oldest son was nearly 3-years-old, I realized that the only way he was going to potty train was to remove his diaper for a prolonged period of time. So, I picked a warm summer day removed his diaper and let him play around the house in a t-shirt. I picked a day when I knew I had nowhere to go and would be home most of the day. I told him that it was a special “tushy day.” I didn’t mention the potty. He giggled and ran around the house happily playing in the nude. At one point he said,

“Mommy, I want my diaper.” I knew that was my moment! I ran for the potty chair and plopped it right under his rear end. Success! It was that simple. Flash forward a few years to my daughter. She absolutely refused to go naked, shoving herself into a corner and walking in circles to avoid going to the potty. With a lot of encouragement, we eventually succeeded with her as well, and then later my twin boys. Yes, I’m happy to report that the entire family (now 22, 19, 11 and 11) has mastered their toileting skills!

Potty Training 101

If you’re like most parents you’ve either succeeded or will succeed in mastering Potty Training 101 at some point in your child’s “career.” You are also not the first parent to begin to panic if your child has not succeeded yet at the ripe old age of 3. Not to worry. Unless your child has a physical disability, your child WILL potty train before he heads off to college.

No joking aside, potty training can be stressful, particular when trying to train children with extreme sensory needs, such as sensory integration disorder or autism. But, they too will succeed, with love patience and persistence. Here are a few pointers to help you along that road to making your child King of the Throne.

1. Sensory Prep

Some kids will be happy leaving their diaper behind, particularly your sensory under responders (children who are less responsive to sensory information). But sensory over responders (hyper sensitive) or sensory seekers may “freak” out. Try taking a scrub brush or washcloth and rubbing their bottoms during and in-between diaper changes. Keep the diaper off longer and longer during changes. Sing a song, read a story distracting your child while the diaper is off.

2. Book

Get a potty book and read it in the bathroom while sitting on the toilet or on the potty chair. You can do this with clothing on, using the potty as a reading spot until they are comfortable.

3. Fen Shui

Make your bathroom a nice place to hang out. If you have a child who won’t go into the bathroom, find out why? Too bright (dim the lights or use a small lamp). Too loud from flushing water? Put in some soft music. Put some nice pictures of fish or waterfalls to hone in on the water experience.

4. Routine

Establish a water routine that includes hygiene. Use a vision board with stickers that show flushing, wiping, washing hands, drying hands, etc. so your child knows the steps involved.

5. Stickers

Reward, reward, reward. Get stickers, small toys or whatever you need to reward even the smallest of success (going into the bathroom, sitting on the toilet, pulling pants down, aiming properly, washing hands, etc.)

6. Cheers

Become the potty fan club!

7. Clue everyone in

Let family members and teachers know that you are working on potty training so they can help out too!

8. Group therapy

This works better with boys, but have a “pee party.” Dad, brother and the trainee can all go for the gold medal in longest pee time.

9. On the road

Take your portable potty chair on the road for times when you may be away from home.

10. Nighttime prep

Ready for nighttime training? Hold off on liquids and try waking your child up (for a couple weeks) before you head off to bed yourself (around 11 PM). You can also try a potty alarm, which can be very effective.

Before you know it, you will be diaper-free and ready to train on the next task at hand!

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Ilana Danneman

Written on March 6, 2014 by:

Ilana Danneman is a pediatric physical therapist with over 25 years experience in the special needs field developing 100's of products, blogging, providing customer education, and catalog direction. She has worked for both School Specialty and Fun and Function and currently is a contract blogger and product developer as well as home health pediatric and geriatric physical therapist. She is currently the owner of the idea therapist and can be reached at [email protected]
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