Tag Archives: special needs potty training

The Difference Between Special Needs and Typical Potty Training Approaches: Address Sensory/Behavioral Issues and Use Consistent Routines

tai-jyun-chang-270109.jpgAfter writing The Practical Guide to Toilet Training Your Child With Low Muscle Tone, I have been asked what was different about my book. There must be 100 books on potty training special needs kids. What did I do differently? Simple. I am an occupational therapist, so I have no choice but to use my 360 degree viewpoint to target all the skills needed to do the job. Seeing the path to independence in this way was second nature to me, but not to parents of kids with special needs. Time to offer some support!

The books I reviewed before I started writing were great, but every one lacked at least one important feature. If the authors were psychologists and teachers, they weren’t fully comprehending or directly addressing the sensory and motor aspects of a very physical skill. Oops.

OTs are always aware of the cognitive and social/behavioral components of activities of daily living, but we also have a solid background in physiology and neurology as well. That makes us your go-to folks for skills like toilet training. And that is a major reason why The Practical Guide is so helpful to the frustrated parents of children with SPD,autism, Down Syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, and a host of other diagnoses that result in delays or difficulties with muscle tone and potty training independence. It explains in detail how low tone creates sensory, motor, and social/behavioral problems, and how to address them. Knowledge is power, and knowledge leads to independence.

The other huge difference is that developing consistent sensory-motor-behavioral routines matter more for these kids. Tone isn’t a constant, as anyone with a child that has low tone knows all too well. Fatigue, illness, even a very warm day; these all make kids less stable and can even reduce their safety. Having a really solid routine makes movements easier to execute and more controlled when situations aren’t perfect. Kids with normal muscle tone can shift their behavior on the fly. They can quickly adjust and adapt movement in ways that children with low tone simply cannot. It isn’t a matter of being stubborn or lazy. Kids with low tone aren’t going to get the sensory feedback fast enough to adjust their motor output.

Good motor planning on a “bad day” occurs for these kids when they have well-practiced routines that support safe and smoothly executed movements. What makes the difference isn’t intelligence or attention. It is recalling a super-safe routine effortlessly. This is completely attainable for kids who have speech or cognitive issues as well as issue with low tone and instability. It may take them longer to learn the routine, but it pays them back with fewer accidents and fewer tears.

To learn more about my book, The Practical Guide to Toilet Training Your Child With Low Muscle Tone, visit my website, tranquil babies.com, or view it on Amazon.com!ferris-wheeltai-jyun-chang-270109

Toilet Training Older Kids: Equipment Matters as Much as Approach

Is potty training after the toddler years different?  Yes, and no.  Here is what you need to consider when you are looking at the equipment for an older child that is still in a diaper or a pull-up.  Whether they have language or not, whether they have rigid or stereotyped behaviors or not, your set-up when training the older child is very important.

  1. Your child probably won’t fit correctly on a toddler potty seat.  Unless your child is significantly shorter and thinner than her peers, she won’t fit.  Children that are nonverbal or very compliant may not complain about sitting so low or so tightly.  They just won’t do well.  They may only sit for a short time, get agitated, or withhold.   They may cling to you when transferring on and off because they are sitting so low.  It can look like they either don’t understand what to do, or won’t comply.  Both can be wrong.  The defiant ones will cry and refuse to use a seat that doesn’t fit them.  Some crafty parents have adapted the smaller seats for their slim little ones, but not everybody can do that.  Look at my post on the adult toilet Low Tone and Toilet Training: Transition to Using The Adult Toilet for help to reconfigure your set-up ,giving your child a better chance at success and comfort.
  2. The right environment for toileting is not in front of the TV.  After all these years of using diapers or pull-ups (which is developmentally really a diaper that you wear, not absorbent underwear), using the toilet can seem as silly to them as going into a restaurant and cooking our own dinner would be to us!  If you have the room, use the bathroom for training.  Bring them into the fold by requiring them to assist you with all aspects of diapering, turn off the TV so you have their attention, and when you do watch potty videos, make sure you are there reminding/encouraging them.  Your demonstrated interest has more power than you think!
  3. You are gonna need a bigger boat (wipe).  Nod to one of my favorite movies, Jaws.  But seriously, using those tiny little toddler wipes from the cute dispenser might not do the job on a 5 year-old heine.  Not enough wiping with a tiny one, and if they aren’t clean down there, it is not only messy, it is a hygeine issue.  Use the grown-up wipes and put Paw Patrol stickers on it if you have to sell them as appealing.

Good news!  My e-book, The Practical Guide to Toilet Training Your child With Low Muscle Tone, is up on my website, tranquil babies .  For a sense of what it includes, take a look at The Practical Guide to Toilet Training Your Child With Low Muscle Tone: Potty Training Help Has Arrived!  I took all the requests from my consultation clients, and my years of experience as a pediatric OTR, and wrapped it into a book that gives you real help, not just charts or encouragement that it takes time.  If you want a hard copy, go to my website and send me an e-mail to find out how to get one!