Since writing The Practical Guide To Toilet Training Your Child With Low Muscle Tone, I have been asked for a list of missteps that happen on the way to success. Here they are:
- Ignoring their own readiness issues. Parents who are unaware of their own lack of readiness will not be able to be the effective coach and teacher that their child needs. Training requires extra laundry, cash outlays and can create lots of frustration for adults. If you don’t know how you will handle all of these issues, your reactions could make potty training harder. Even if you have trained older children, life situations change. A parent with a more demanding job or simply more “irons in the fire” will have to figure out how to devote the necessary time and attention to toilet training this child. Learn more about readiness by reading Low Tone and Toilet Training: The 4 Types of Training Readiness
- Assuming that defiant children will be LESS defiant in toilet training. Older toddlers and preschool children that are still in diapers can be the most difficult to train. Developmentally, they are at the stage in which they are learning about their ability to assert control over situations and people and handling the consequences. Some children have temperaments that make toilet training harder any age. The shy child can be overwhelmed by accidents and expectations, and the spirited child can balk at being told when to sit on the potty and resists following a routine.
- Using equipment that doesn’t fit the child. The wide range of equipment available doesn’t mean that parents will pick the one that has the best chance of success. Children with motor or sensory issues are especially vulnerable to failure when the equipment doesn’t meet their needs. Typically-developing children can respond negatively to poor equipment as well. A seat insert that is wiggly can seem frighteningly unsafe to them, and a potty on another floor can result in so many accidents that they insist on a diaper for security.
- Ignoring the sensory processing component of low muscle tone. Many children have low muscle tone, including children with ASD, sensory processing issues, and syndromes such as Down and Prader-Willi. Parents are aware of the balance and stability components of low tone, but don’t recognize any of the sensory components. The one that derails training the most frequently is a lack of interoceptive awareness, which is limited perception of internal sensory experiences .
- Assuming that speech delays mean training delays. Children can learn to use the toilet without any verbal abilities at all. They do need some receptive language skills, but the level of comprehension to master a toileting schedule isn’t as high as parents think. Creating a good plan is the challenge.
- Interpreting accidents as failures. No one likes to have an accident or clean one up. But accidents are signals that learning is happening and/or changes in the training plan are needed. If you or your child react dramatically to accidents or interpret their meaning incorrectly, this can create training resistance or refusal. For some more ideas on addressing accidents with your special needs child, read Not Making It To the Potty In Time? Three Reasons Why Special Needs Kids Have Accidents.
- Not knowing how to anticipate bladder fullness or bowel routines. What goes in must come out. If a child wanders around with a sippy cup, it will be nearly impossible to anticipate when that bladder will be full, and when sitting on the potty will be a success. Understanding how to make early training successful by guiding a child the the toilet at the right time is key.
- Minimizing the importance of clothing choice for independence. Children have the cutest clothes, but during toilet training, cute styles can spell disaster. “Dressing for success” means clothes that can be slid on and off easily, and don’t get in the way of seeing and feeling the call of nature.
- Ignoring fears and withholding behaviors until they derail training. Some children are truly afraid of the sounds, feelings and even the smells of elimination. They can even think that they will be flushed away! Avoiding addressing withholding issues can create behavioral but also medical problems. Ignore them at your own peril.
- Waiting until the last minute to train. After a few years of diapers, children can assume that this is how their parents want them to eliminate. Not using pre-training strategies that inspire and prepare children, even children with special needs, makes training harder than it has to be. Take a look at How Early Can You Start Toilet Training? to understand more about training readiness at any age.
For kids without special needs, the best book for them is Oh Crap Potty Training. Read A Great Toilet Training Book for Neurotypical Kids: Oh Crap Potty Training! to learn why this is going to help you get it right, even if you have failed before. But what if your child has low muscle tone?
My book, The Practical Guide to Toilet Training Your child With Low Muscle Tone, helps parents through all the complexities of potty training . The e-book is available on my website tranquil babies. It is also available on Amazon and at Your Therapy Source.
There is nothing out there that does as complete a job of helping parents succeed with toilet training children who have low muscle tone. I looked. All the other books on special needs potty training shrug their shoulders when they discuss neuromuscular issues, because teachers and psychologists don’t truly understand the ways neurophysiology contributes to the struggle. I have provided readiness checklists and chapter summaries for quick answers to your questions. Medical and therapy terms are fully explained so that you don’t have to run to Google to figure out what each term really means.
My book provides parents with ideas they can use today to move forward with potty training!
Help has arrived!