Ode to Potty Training

Not an ode exactly, more of a nod towards potty training/toilet training/toiletting.
One of the most stressful uphill challenges in any parent of a young child's life.

Add in the fact that your child has a learning disability (deep sigh).
Already that hill of a task has become Mount Everest, hasn't it.

Well, yes, teaching your little one to use the toilet will be tricky, but take a deep breath, accept that fact, and look around for tips that might help your journey become easier and more humorous.

First of all, accept that ALL children are different, and the timetable for wanting to use the toilet will differ for each one.  Any time from 3 years to 8 years and upwards is 'normal' for  a child with Down's Syndrome.

Wait for the cue to come from your child.  Do they pull at their clothes or tell you when they are wet or soiled?  Do they try to imitate older siblings or friends by trying to use a potty or toilet?  Are nappies (diapers) dry for longer periods of time?  Then they are ready for your help to move them forward in the toiletting game :)

This is just our experience, yours will be different.  Let yourself be led by your child. (And burn any potty training manuals written by ladies who don't have children of their own..!)

To begin with we sat Natty on a potty just before bath time each night.  It was fun, and there was no pressure, she relaxed while the bath ran, and occasionally produced a wee!  We did this for about a year without moving forward.

A year and a bit before she started school, we discussed potty training with her pre-school.  They were keen to help out and we made plans together so that we did the same at home and at pre-school.  We spoke to a lovely Continence Nurse (I think I inadvertently pushed past several short lists, simply found her work number and rang her...)  She was a wealth of knowledge! She made sure there wasn't a physical barrier to starting toilet training...could Natty go several hours with a dry nappy for example?  Once we were sure this was the case, she suggested using a ladies' incontinence pad (brands other than TENA Lady are available I'm sure!)  inside a pretty pairs of girls pants (I guess that is panties for our American friends, not trousers!).  This way she could choose her own pretty 'big girls' ' pants, and feel grown up, with all the security of a nappy.  We had tried 'real nappy trainer pants' before as they let the child feel when they are wet, but the bulkiness and similarity to a baby's nappy were now holding us back.

We started using the pads.  Each day we asked her 20 times at least if she wanted a wee.  We took her each time we went, and each time her sister went to the loo.  After a few weeks, we began to get a few 'hits' on the potty.  The progress was painstakingly slow, and I guarantee you nappies would have been the easier option.  Particularly tempting as they are free from the government for children with disabilities.  I focussed on the end goal and refused them.

We began to buy smaller pads in the hope that by feeling wet she would ask for the toilet.  This didn't happen, but we calmly took spare clothes wherever we went and simply changed her several times a day, when damp.  We focussed on the successes and praised Natty highly.  We never once got cross with Natty for her failures (although I have privately screamed in a cupboard when she has wet on a freshly made bed, new carpet or sofa.)

Finally we reached a point (it happened to be summer) where we felt Natty was being a bit lazy and was capable of more (perhaps 6 more months after starting to use the incontinence pads).

We bit the bullet and stopped using any kind of protection during the day.  No turning back.
Day one - 6 accidents.
Day two - 5 accidents.  (that's a lot of washing...but hey, it was summer.)
We stepped up our reminders.  We realised Natty preferred sitting on the toilet to the potty, so we put all the potties in the loft (1 for each room of course) and bought sturdy, large steps and comfy, padded child's toilet seats.  These are even available with arms to help independence.  Do not be afraid to ask your Physio or OT if you have one, for a sturdy large step that your child feels safe to climb and turn around on.

We bought 'Piddle Pads' to protect car seats and chairs. (See Useful gadgets page)

The accidents continued, but with perhaps the same number of successes each day.  We questioned Natty's readiness, but I think I could be quoted as saying I knew that she was ready and that she would start school in pants if it killed me!  Then after day 10 we noticed only 3 accidents.  This was the point of no return.
We bought hilarious fluffy toys in the shape of a wee and a poo (pictured above).  We encouraged Natty to hold whichever one she needed at the time (and if that failed, they at least made us giggle during the many hours spent in the lavatory!)

We made up ridiculous songs "If you do a weeeee weeeee on the tooooilet, you can have a chocolate drop, yum, yum, yummmm" (Did I mention the bribery?  The less said about that the better ;) )

We read books and looked at flash cards while Natty sat on her throne to pass the time.

Star charts meant nothing to Natty, but give them a try.  We also bought a large pink potty that sang when she produced a wee...but she got wise to how it worked and simply pushed the buttons inside to get the reward.

That was 6 months ago.  Natty began school in September, aged 4 years, wearing ordinary pants, and now only has 1 accident every fortnight or so (aged just 5)... just like her 'typically developing' peers.  She still rarely remembers to go to the loo when she needs to, seldom actually asks, but we now only have to remind her every couple of hours or so.

I think we can count that as a resounding success, don't you.

To read about part 2 of our toiletting journey, Dry at Night, click here.

For more practical info and continence products, visit ERIC: Education and Resources for Childhood Continence

Rock and Pop advice for constipation



8 comments:

  1. Brilliant ! I love the fluffy toys ,what a great idea :-)We kept our son in nappies until he went to school and one day the school nurse said why is he wearing nappies?? We took them off and he didn't have one accident...honestly.It was us that was holding him back and as he was wearing nappies he was thinking well might as well use them. Love Natty's story....good fun that's the way !

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  2. Wow, what a success story! That's made me get my thinking cap on about nappies at bedtime...

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  3. Love the two stuff toys for potty training. My DS daughter is 20 months now and I am going through potty training... We have been at it for 2 months now and making progress. At home I can keep her dry with only two accidents... This week (07-25-12)she started daycare and it appears that she has three accidents at school... but I think that is because the daycare workers DO NOT understand her signing and her ways... hopefully she will be potty trained by her 2nd birthday (keepin my fingers crossed)..

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  4. Well done you and well done Natty some fab ideas. My LO didnt like using a potty, must be a girl thing :) x

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  5. We are just going through potty training with our little boy who is doing really well. My health visitor gave me some resource material ('One Step at a Time - A Parental Guide to Toilet Skills for Children with Special Needs')printed from the following website:
    http://www.continencevictoria.org.au/node/102
    I think it has some useful ideas that might help.

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    1. This is brilliant! Thank you. Will link in.

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  6. OK, I've read these posts and the brilliant leaflets at www.continencevictoria (so much more useful than our continence nurse whose advise consisted of "sit on the toilet 20 minutes after a drink") and have decided we need to revisit toilet training. Safina is now 6 and we've had many false starts. Wish us luck.

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    1. Good luck and I add that website in as a link. Thank you x

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