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Extra lucky potty training tips from a pro!

Written by Allison Jandu- Potty Training Consultant and powerhouse behind @pottytrainingconsultant

Extra lucky kiddos often require extra creative strategies when it comes to potty training! All children experience different strengths and difficulties when they go through big milestones in life, and that’s the beauty of finding what works and what doesn’t for YOUR child! With the proper guidance, education, and expectations potty training can be a hurdle that is jumped over smoothly and with confidence from both you and your child. When it comes to children who have special needs, the potty training process is no different, even if it can pose some extra unique challenges along the way.

If you google potty training, you’ll get millions of hits all providing advice on the best way to do it. However, much of this advice is conflicting and not very helpful, ESPECIALLY for children with special needs. In this article, we’ll dive into helpful tips and tricks on how to help guide your extra lucky toddler through the potty training process in a positive and fun way! It’s important to remember that there is no “one size fits all” method to potty training for ANY child! Each individual has their own learning styles, timeline, and likes and dislikes. Because of this, it’s our job to follow their lead while still remaining committed and consistent with the new boundaries and expectations that we lay out for them.

First and foremost, don’t hyper-focus too much on the age of your child when it comes to potty training readiness. Children with special needs of any kind often potty train a bit later and take a bit longer and that’s okay! Around of after the age of three is often when kiddos with extra special needs begin potty training. Instead of age, focus more on readiness cues such as:

  • Showing interest in the potty

  • Hiding to poop or not wanting to wear a dirty diaper

  • Being able to follow basic instructions

  • Gross motor skill development and progress

  • Desire to please

Some children will display all of these signs and others won’t display any. If your child isn’t really showing any obvious signs of readiness, it’s perfectly okay for you to be the one to introduce the concept of the potty to them in a low-pressure, stress-free way. Let’s dive into some important tips for before and during the potty training process:

Preparation: Children with special needs tend to thrive more in a predictable environment. When transitions are coming, such as potty training, it’s helpful to give them a heads up that things are about to change instead of switching from diapers to potty cold turkey so they can start to mentally prepare themselves and get comfortable with the idea of the potty. Weave potty talk into your child’s life in a fun and low pressure way (books, videos, role playing, conversation, etc.) at least two weeks or so before you’re ready to begin. Social stories are a great way to offer visual support to help them understand each step of the process. Using real pictures of your child and the toilet they will be using

will help them envision the process before putting any pressure on them to do or change anything themselves at first.

Change your diaper station: If you’re not already doing so, begin changing your child’s diaper/Pull-Up in the bathroom instead of their bedroom or living room. We want them to know that we take care of our business in the bathroom. (Bonus points for having them stand up while changing them!)

Positive reinforcement: We are all motivated in different ways. What is your child motivated by? Use a reinforcer to motivate them to use the toilet. Put a picture of this reinforcer as the last picture on the last page of your social story or visual schedule to remind them of what they’re working towards!

Clever ideas for reinforcers:

  • Hide small toys inside of Easter eggs

  • Individually wrap little sensory toys and put them all in a “prize” box

  • Secret handshake

  • Screen time

  • Edible treat

  • Fake tattoo

  • Bubbles

  • Painting finger nails

  • Matchbox cars

  • Stickers with their favorite characters on them

Choices: Providing choices can be a really powerful tool! Potty training, among other big events in a child’s life, can feel overwhelming and completely out of their control. When we can offer our toddlers appropriate control, we are allowing them to feel as if they are getting to have a say in what is happening around them too. (Choices can include: which bathroom, which reward, floor potty vs. big toilet, walk or piggyback ride to the bathroom, etc.) Including our children in the small things will help them feel more comfortable when we ask them to try big things (Like peeing and pooping on the potty!)

Routine: Build multiple bathroom breaks into their daily schedule. Print out a visual schedule that includes each potty break during the day and talk about what will be coming next so that the trip to the bathroom doesn’t come as a complete surprise. Seeing bathroom breaks on their schedule will communicate the expectation you have set to use the bathroom as just another thing to be done during the day like brushing their teeth or eating lunch!

Every unique challenge has a unique solution! No matter how daunting the potty training journey may

seem for you and your extra lucky child, there are resources and specialists (like me!) who have

discovered revolutionary methods for children who have all sorts of special needs. Every child deserves

to be recognized as an extraordinary individual, even throughout the potty training process!

For more information about Allison Jandu and her amazing platform, head to her website!


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