Toilet Training Children with Special Needs

Children with special needs have the same needs for toilet training as children who are mainstream. Toilet training is a milestone that can mean the difference between being able to socialise or not. It means the difference of many thousands of dollars in continence products. And over time it means many hours less of physical care needed daily.

Here are some frequently asked questions about toilet training these special kids;

When should we start toilet training?

Start early but expect it to take a long time. While some kids get it in days to weeks for others it may take months to years.
Plan to start toilet training at a time that doesn’t clash with other major events. Toilet training when you are moving house, when a baby is due or at the start of a new school adds stress to an already stressful time. While there is never a perfect time to start, toilet training at a time when family stress is high is not a good idea. Have family members, special friends and school/day-care involved. These groups of people will be your support network. Other carers of the child will need to be on board to follow up with the strategies set in place.

How do I know my child is ready to start toilet training?

These are some cues that may help you to determine if your child is ready to start toilet training:

  • Can the child sit still for 2 minutes?
  • Can they follow simple instructions?
  • Can they stay dry for 1 – 2 hours or more?
  • Do they pass soft, formed poos?
  • Do they seek privacy when weeing or pooing?
  • Do they tell you that they have wee’d or poo’d after it has happened?
  • Do they have a look of concentration while weeing or pooing in nappy?
  • Do they do the toilet dance indicating they may feel something is happening?

Should you use a potty or toilet?

There is no real difference between the two. If you have a child who needs routines to be unchangeable (eg some children with autism) then start out how you hope to finish.

Ensure the child is comfortable sitting: a step or ladder and a seat that fits their bottom. Children that have poor sitting balance (eg those who have cerebral palsy) may need arms on either side or a moulded seat with back.

While getting used to toilets, expose your child to different settings. Don’t forget public toilets as well!

What about rewards and consequences?

A new skill often needs many repetitions to learn. Make sure your child has a reason to learn this new skill.

Reward successes with “high 5’s” smiles hugs and cuddles, maybe sticker charts or small food rewards (1 sultana, ‘m&m’ or even ½ a jelly bean).

Don’t set the goal posts too far – sitting without complaint may be a reasonable goal for those who don’t want to sit still for 30 seconds.

How long do we try for?

As long as it takes. Days to years. However when it gets too stressful, have a toilet training holiday!

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