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100 Tips for Nannies and Families

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Toilet Training Children with Special Needs

Toilet training can be a challenge, even under the best of circumstances.  Toilet training children with special needs can seem like mission impossible.  Do not despair!  Here are some tips.

  • 1. Before you begin the toilet training process, visit with the children’s pediatricians for guidance.
  • 2. Participate in support groups for parents with special needs children. In these groups will be parents who have already been through this process and can share their wisdom.
  • 3. Assess the children’s readiness to begin the toilet training process. Do the children recognize the difference between feeling wet and feeling dry? Do they find wetness to be an unpleasant experience? Can they feel when they need to pass urine and feces? Are they physically capable of reaching the commode and sufficiently undressing in the time in which they have that feeling but before they actually begin passing urine or feces? How frequently do they pass urine or feces? (Note: children with special needs often begin the toilet training process later than children who do not have special needs.)
  • 4. Ensure that you do not begin toilet training when the children’s lives have unusual changes or stressors. If there is a relocation to a new community, the birth of a sibling, the death of a grandparent, or other unusual change or stressor, this is not the time to begin toilet training.
  • 5. Begin with a statement of purpose, a message that will be motivating to the children. For example, if toilet training is successfully completed, they can wear “big kid” pants.
  • 6. Generously praise every success (i.e., getting to the commode before an accident occurs). Celebrate milestones in ways that will make the children feel rewarded. These celebrations may include a special dessert with dinner that night, an extra 15 minutes before bedtime, etc.
  • 7. Have patience in periodic set-backs. Special needs children may take longer to toilet train, but stay the course.
  • 8. Find humor when possible. Don’t let the children experience shame when accidents occur: find a way to minimize the embarrassment and, later, to giggle over whatever may be found to be funny in a non-destructive manner.
  • 9. Use substitute toilet training coaches as needed. When you feel frustration, let your spouse or other trusted person step in and resume toilet training while you take a moment to step away and regain perspective.

Each physical and psychological challenge can make toilet training difficult in its own unique ways.  This blog is intended to be general in nature, to cover the range of physical and psychological challenges.   In steps #1 and #2 above, challenge-specific difficulties can be ascertained and potentially accommodated.

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