Parents of non-verbal children often delay toilet training, assuming that these kids need more communication skills to be successful. I disagree. I think children and their parents need other skills more. Here are my thoughts about what really matters for these kids:
- Their parents need excellent observation skills. A child that cannot easily communicate their needs and concerns is still showing you signs that they have already eliminated or that they are ready to eliminate. Children have familiar facial and postural changes such as grimacing, grunting, and crouching. They often go to their “poopy place”, a location in the house where they prefer to have bowel movements. Behind the sofa is a common spot. Just like typically-developing kids, parents who know when to anticipate elimination can guide their child to the potty so that kids make the connection between sitting and successfully eliminating. This may mean that grazing and sipping all day long is over. If drinks and meals are served generously but not continuously, it is easier to predict when a child will have a full bladder. The act of eating often stimulates colon activity, so bowel moments are more regular and therefore predictable as well. This is easier when meals are larger and eating is not happening in small snacks through the day.
- Children need familiar routines. When non-verbal children can anticipate a toileting routine, they don’t need to rely as much on receptive or expressive language skills. For example, ending a meal and getting dressed will remind them that they now go to the toilet. Lack of a routine will mean that they have to work harder on communication. Being caught out of their routine and in need of a toilet could be so stressful that they resist giving up their diaper. Create and carefully maintain routines that support success and calmness around elimination.
- Families need good toileting equipment. A child that cannot describe in detail why they are uncomfortable is going to be less cooperative with toileting. Beyond an appropriate potty or toilet insert/footstool set-up, a non-verbal child needs clothing that is easy to manage and wet wipes that really clean them. My strategy of “dry runs”, in which children pretend and get a chance to practice, helps everyone see if they have prepared well for toilet training.
Help has arrived! My book, The Practical Guide to Toilet Training Your Child With Low Muscle Tone, is now available on my website, tranquil babies and in a clothbound hard copy by contacting me through my site. Read The Practical Guide to Toilet Training Your Child With Low Muscle Tone: Help Has Arrived! to learn how my innovative book is designed to be parent-friendly and help you move forward with toilet training today!