Saturday, March 3, 2012

Potty training made easy for children with and without special needs

Potty training are you ready?

These are some simple steps which have worked for me to potty train, special needs children two of them with fetal alcohol syndrome and reactive attachment disorder, two with autism as well as three hard to train children. I have also potty trained four girls, two of my own who were trained before the age of two using these same steps.

Christopher's 2nd birthday in his big boy pants

Many children with fetal alcohol syndrome, Autism and other special needs can NOT be potty trained at the age of two, three or even four. This is because the brain doesn't tell the child he/she needs to go. Sometimes they are just simply not ready yet. Your child must be emotionally ready. He/She should want to go and not show any signs of fear or confusion. If your child is extremely resistant then it would be best on parents and child to wait a bit longer. I did use pull ups with my youngest who is very bright even though he does have fetal alcohol syndrome, it took a year of working with him for him to finally get the idea of what he was suppose to be doing. This took a great deal of time on my part but it was worth it to go slow with him. At three he was completely potty trained, he doesn't even have accidents except at night.

Two things you have to remember is to keep it positive and simple.

Take time to stop, watch and talk for a few days!
Before you begin to potty train, you need to stop and watch your child, watch for facial expression that come just before they pee or have a bowel movement. Watch to see what time of day your child normally goes poop and pee. Watch for signs your child is going pee or poop in their diaper and let them know this is what they are doing. This helps them connect going pee or poop to the feeling they have at the time. Most children actually have a natural schedule of when they go each day. This way you can make sure you have them on the potty when it is time to start training at those critical moments this will help your child to succeed and feel proud.

- Watch to see what foods your child is eating that causes them to go more. This might be carrots or broccoli could also be a milk product. Each child is different but it is always good to start out having them try to go after each meal if their bodies do not have a consistent schedule. I give my children Raisin bran if they have not been going regularly for breakfast and they go pretty quick after they eat it. Apples are also a great way to get your child going poop or apple juice at a certain time each day will help you know when they need to go. Watch to see how long It takes them to go after they eat the apple or drink juice. Also lots of water is always important for your child.

- Buy a good potty chair, explain to the child he is a big boy/girl now and you are going to pick him/her out a special potty just for them. Keep this very positive and if possible allow your child to help pick out his/her “big boy/girl potty.

Be excited and your child will be excited too.

- Buy“big boy/girl pants", make sure to buy plastic pants also at least 8-12 pairs. Expect your child to have accidents and deal with them calmly. The thicker training pants are best to start with and are more cost effective.

- Talk to your child, explain that they are big now and big kids go on the potty. Explain to them that you as parents use the potty, you could also let them see a slightly older sibling if there is one using the potty. I know some people take their child in the bathroom with them that is fine if this is what you chose to do..

Christopher being silly with his new big boy pants

Time to Potty train

You are going to need to have a piece of paper, some stickers and some toys from the dollar store.If you child is special needs there are other suggestions at the end.

Now that you are ready, lets get your child ready!

Step 1 - Is your child ready to try out his potty chair? You can put the chair in a common room at first so he/she can sit on it when they want. This gets them use to this new special chair just for her/him. It helps to relieve the fear of it all. This is a new concept to your child don't rush it.
I am gonna figure this out I promise!

Step 2- You should still be talking to your child about using the potty. Explain to him or her that they are now ready to go pee and poop in this new special child and how proud you are that he/she is so big. Again always be excited and positive and always expect some hesitation. Your child most likely is NOT going to jump up and down for joy if they think this is going to be a chore.

Step 3- Take a piece of paper and write your child's name at the top of it. You can have your child color it, if you want. Hang the paper on the wall with tape or put it on the fridge with magnets. A place where it is easy to get too. This is where you will need your stickers. Explain in simple terms that when your child is a “big boy/girl” and goes pee or poop on the potty he/she will get a sticker on their paper. Now you take out the bag of toys, not too many toys only 3-5 since you don't want to over stimulate the child when he sees them. Now explain to your child once his page is filled up with stickers he will get to pick a toy out of the bag. Start off with a lower number of stickers so your child is able to reach his goal and get one of those toys. I would suggest five or six for a few days then you can move up the number needed. 

Another first for me when all else fails, was giving my son M&Ms when he went potty. For children who have special needs you will have to do more and this worked well for him. Just make sure you have enough of them on hand.

Step4– Ask your child if he wants to try to go pee or poop on his new big boy potty. If he says no, this time wait and try again later. Keep positive and know some children just take longer to train.

Step 5 – The "BIG MOMENT" comes and he wants to sit on his potty and try to go pee. You go into the bathroom with him. Do not expect your child to go his first try and give him time. Have a couple of books already in the bathroom you can sit down on the floor next to him and read one of them to him. If he doesn't go tell him that it is okay, he can try again later and praise him for trying to go.

If he goes then praise him, clap your hands, dance around with him, hug him, this is a huge thing he has done. Tell him, “I have a big boy/girl now!!” Have him call Grandma and tell her he is a big boy and went pee on the potty or other supportive family members or friends your child is close to. Make sure he tells Daddy and make sure everyone knows ahead of time that their role is to be supportive and they too need to make a huge deal out of his first time. This will set what he does or doesn't do next into motion. All children love positive attention and I have found children with special needs need it even more. You want all the positive attention you can get for him/her going pee or poop on the potty.

Step 6 – “The accident” and there will be many. Know it, expect and accept it before it happens. Tell your child that it is okay, we all have accidents now we need to get you cleaned up. Clean him up and have him help wash out his underwear in the bathtub or sink, never the toilet, that is demeaning for a child or anyone else. Have a bucket ready in the bathroom to put the wet underwear in. Do not scold your child this is something he has not learned to control yet. Cleaning his underwear out should be just something you need to do, not a punishment but a fact. They are wet and need to be washed this teaches him how to clean them himself for later on. Don't dwell on the accident giving him too much attention for the accident will cause him to have more.

Step 7 – He goes on the potty again, praise him, hug him, clap for him or dance with him but make it fun! Once again, you have to set the tone and you have to always praise the behavior you want in any situation with your child. This is what you want to give him lots of attention for. Have your support people do the same rather it is Daddy, Grandma or other people. Make sure to give your child a sticker to put on their potty page.

Step 8 -Once your child has done well on the potty with only a couple of accidents. For children without special needs this should happen within two weeks. He should have been able to fill up a couple of sticker sheets by now and has the hang of it. At least one a week, If he hasn't done well the first two weeks continue as you have been. Make sure to give very little attention to the accidents, no scolding only tell him he is a big boy now and pee goes in the potty if you believe he is able to do so.

It is very tiring to go on the potty all the time!

If there are more accidents than not, your child might not be ready yet. This is the only time I would ever put a pull up on a child as I believe them to be very confusing. You can use them at night however explain to the child this is just because it is harder to go potty at night but you expect him to use the potty during the day. A pull up feels too much like a diaper and for over two – three years they have gone potty in a diaper. You want them to know when they have gone in underwear they will feel when they go pee o poop and they will want the dirty underwear off, so they are more likely to tell you they are wet.

Step 9 – If your child is getting it down, then increase the amount of stickers needed to get the new toy. This will help him to have more motivation to make it to the potty on time. Most children will get busy playing and not want to stop playing to go potty, this is normal. You need to tell you child at this point he is a big boy and you expect him to go pee on the potty. These days the praise is not as strong as you want him to get in the habit of going. You still need to give praise however and a hug can never hurt a child.

The more praise you give in the good times, the more good times you are going to GET!

Step 10 – Your child is dry during the day now but not at night. Bed wetting is very common in special needs children as it is in normal children. Some simple things you can do to help, is no more drinks two hours before bedtime expect for a small one right before bedtime. Make sure to send your child to the bathroom each night just before they go to bed, they should try rather they need to go or not this should become part of your bedtime routine. You also need to send your child to the bathroom before you leave your house tell them to try if they can't go no big deal.
If they pee at night do not make a big deal out of it simply get them dry underwear and PJ's. Do not give a lot of attention at this time either. Just help them get changed and back into bed. If this happens keep them in pull ups. Then give them a sticker each morning they wake up dry on their paper. This will also encourage them to try to stay dry if they are able. If they are not able, then they just don't get a sticker.
I am such a big boy now!!
Christopher age 3 fully potty trained

For hard to train or special needs children

If your child is special needs and is not using the potty you can stop and try again when he is older. Do not force it as I said in the beginning some children with FAS, Autism, mental retardation and other special needs are not able to control when they go potty or to even feel when they need to go. Also many special needs children are not at the same emotion level as other children. You have to learn your child and what he/she is capable of. Don't give up completely, even if you have gone to pull ups encourage your child to use the potty chair and continue the over praising when they go.
It took me a year with my youngest but I am so glad we went slow with him. Yes, I praised him every time he used the potty for a year we gave him M&Ms and sometimes sour patch kids which he seemed to like better. When you have a child with special needs you have to do things differently. Plus every child is different what works for most might not work for one or two. You have to be fixable.
The most important thing you can do for yourself and your child during this time is to keep it stress free and positive.
Another thing to expect is that they are going to at some time check out peeing on the floor maybe even going poop on the floor. Remember expect it and accept it, this is just part of learning something new to your child. Let them help clean it up and with a normal tone explain that this goes in the potty you can have them repeat it. Pee goes in the potty or poop goes in the potty. Once again no punishment, it wont help and could very well set your child back.

I made a picture chart showing each step of going on the potty. I took a picture of the potty chair, then a picture of Christopher sitting on the potty chair, a picture of him smiling and then a picture of my husband and I clapping, and ended it with a picture of Christopher washing his hands. I put a caption under each picture not for him but so that we could read the potty picture story to him. I put it up on a wall in my living room because that is the room he is in the most.
This is also the time to use candy or other small treats as a reward you can slowly stop giving these as the child gets better at going potty. Christopher has been potty trained for over a year now but once in awhile he will ask for a sour patch kid and I give him one. Most of the time he doesn't even tell me he is going potty anymore he just goes.

I always gave my kids two stickers for going poop for some reason kids really fight that one if you are doing M&Ms give two for poop and one for pee. It helps.

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