As we’ve mentioned before, potty training a child with special needs can be a little more challenging, but that is not to say that it can’t be done. Your child is unique, just like we are all unique, and we need to do what works for each child.
I am offering this information today as a mom and play therapist. I have worked with many children, under the age of three, on these same developmental skills and want to offer the suggestions that I have in the area. I hope that they help and that you can take them and use them for your child. (this post contains affiliate links)
Potty Training a Child With Physical Disabilities
What is a Physical Disability**?**
A physical delay is a condition that impairs mobility and movement. It may be that it is an inability to use legs, arms, or the trunk effectively. It can be caused by a birth defect, disease or an accident, among other things. Physical delays can make it harder to train a child.
According to BirthInjuryGuide.org, “It’s important to note that children with cerebral palsy may have suffered medical issues that prevent them from toilet training successfully, including bladder control problems, urinary incontinence, and bowel issues. These problems cannot usually be helped without medical intervention, and there may be several occasions in which the child doesn’t make it to the toilet in time. As mentioned earlier, in some instances, urinary incontinence may last a lifetime.”
“A urologist can help you determine if your child has achieved urinary continence, the act of controlling the release of the bladder.”
Is your child ready?
- Does your child get uncomfortable when his/her diaper is wet?
- Can your child stay dry for at least two hours at a time?
- Can you child tell the difference between being wet and dry?
- Is your child interested in using the potty or does he show interest when you go to the potty?
Tools to Help:
- Specialized Training Toilet (adjustable straps, safety rails, and soft cushioning).
- Bars next to the toilet to use for stability.
- A stool for the child’s feet.
Tips for Potty Training a Child with a Physical Delay
First, and most importantly, prepare before you start. Plan out what will need to be done when your child has to go to the bathroom. Will you be helping? Will your child be able to go alone in the future?
Remember that your child may become frustrated, so be patient. For example, children with cerebral palsy have a harder time with toilet training because their bladder awareness and control begins much later.
- Be open to using Disposable pull-ups, for many years.
- Understand that accidents will happen.
- Decide, right now, if you are going to be upset at an accident, or if you can embrace the fact that your child is trying and is having a harder time.
Expect a roller-coaster
I have seen many children go 3, 4 and even up to 10 days without an accident, only to be back to where they started the next day. This is OK and just another bump in the road. I also know that while many children are potty trained by three, many children with physical delays may be a little bit potty trained at three, but not fully potty trained until age ten, or later.
Watch for Signs
I worked with a child with Cerebral Palsy for several years, and when he was learning to use the potty, he would become VERY fidgety before going. He was almost three years old, so it was obvious to us, and his fidgeting was our sign that said: “I need to go right now!”
Try to find a word that your child can use, that let’s you know that he/she has to use the bathroom.
Helping them stay on the potty
Can you use a training potty with handles on the sides and a higher back? This can be very helpful. Another idea, that was given to me by a parent, is for the parent to sit on the potty and hold her child in front of her, on the potty. This offered a physical support while her child was going, and allowed him to use the regular toilet and not the training toilet once he turned three.
Get on a schedule
The best advice that I can give is to get on a schedule or routine. When your child wakes up, this is a good opportunity to use the bathroom. After a snack? After lunch? After a rest? After a book? Pick certain times and try not to sway from them. This will help your child get on a schedule that may lead to earlier success.
Remember to talk with your child’s pediatrician if you have any concerns or questions. If it becomes overwhelming, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
This is an excerpt from the Special Needs chapter of the book, Potty Train in a Weekend. Check it out for more information on potty training your special needs child.
Looking for some more potty training advice and related tips? Check out the links below.
- Bedwetting Tips for Older Kids
- Potty Training the Strong Willed Child
- Child Scared of the Potty?
- Real Tips for Potty Training a Toddler
- Play Based Potty Training