After writing my first e-book, The Practical Guide to Toilet Training Your Child With Low Muscle Tone: Potty Training Help Has Arrived! ,I continue to think of additional issues that can complicate (but not derail) training. One of these issues is a receptive language delay. This is when a child’s ability to comprehend language is not age appropriate. It may be accompanied by a delay in expressive language as well. I don’t think it is a hard stop to training, but there are some strategies that improve the experience. Not all of them are obvious.
When a child is unable to easily and quickly understand what you are saying during toilet training, you will need to do a few things differently:
- Expect to need established routines to support your verbal instruction. This can include very regular trips to the potty rather than happening randomly. Routines are essential for all children, but these kids really need them to shore up the language you are using. Think about buying something in another language. The routine or presenting the item, finding out the fee, offering payment and leaving with your item helps you get over the fact that you have forgotten most of your high school level French. When they always sit on the potty right before a specific show, they know why and what you are saying more easily because they know the context.
- Use clear and consistent gestures and facial expressions as additional messaging while teaching and encouraging performance. Gestures and facial expressions clarify your words and help kids respond quickly. If they have too many accidents because they were confused, they could decide to stop cooperating.
- Monitor your language complexity, and consider simplifying it for ease of comprehension under stress. As in the Fast Food Rule’s use of Toddler-ese, shorten phrases and emphasize important words. This is not the time to lengthen your statements. Repeat if necessary, but don’t elaborate. Read Taming Toddler Tantrums Using Sympathetic Reframing for more details on TFFR.
- Assume that you will need to be more enthusiastic, more positive, and spend more time on training in general. Your child is probably already someone with a short fuse. Struggling to understand what people are saying makes that easy. Now you are trying to teach a new skill, possibly one that they aren’t 100% excited to learn. That doesn’t mean never teach it. It means have a good plan, with lots of optimism and patience on your part.