7 Tips for Stress-Free Potty Training Special Needs Children
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When our son J.B. was diagnosed with Non-Verbal Autism, he had just turned three, and he wasn’t potty trained. I remember family and friends commenting about how we should potty train him now. Honestly at the time he just wasn’t ready, but this year he’s made tremendous strides towards being potty trained and I’m sharing 7 tips for stress-free potty training special needs children. I’ve also included a step by step tutorial for making a Personal Potty Training Kit, and how Pull-Ups® Cool & Learn® Training Pants helped us achieve some of our goals.
I should start by saying that this isn’t a catch-all way to potty train children with special needs. I tried several different methods and suggestions to get my son to use the potty on his own. I’m sharing tips that made it less stressful for me during the process.
Tip #1: Don’t Rush
Potty Training for us was a marathon and not a sprint, I wanted to make sure we waited till our son was completely ready for potty training. With his developmental delays and being non-verbal it was very stressful when we tried to train him when he was younger. Waiting for him to show us the signs he was ready meant he was starting to understand the urge to go and not wanting to be wet. I’ve shared tips for testing for readiness before, including being able to sit on the potty for several minutes and being able to pull their pants down and up on their own.
Tip #2: Start A Potty Journal
A potty journal was a good way for us to see when our son was using the bathroom, how often, and whether it was for #1 or #2. I did it for about a week so we could track how soon after meals he needed to use the bathroom, how long after waking up did he have to use the bathroom, and when he needed to go at night to wake up dry.
Tip #3: Be Prepared
Over the years of getting our son ready for potty training we spent a lot of money on training pants, our favorite brand has been Huggies Pull-Ups. The easy open sides were a life saver when my son was learning to pull his pants up and down, if they came apart it was easy for us to just put them back together. The Pull-Ups® Cool & Learn® Training Pants has a cooling sensation that helped my son better understand the feeling of wetness.
Walmart always offers low prices and these products start at $8.97, plus now there’s a coupon on their site to save $2 per package. We needed to stock up on some Pull-Ups for an upcoming tips so we headed to Walmart to pick up a few packages for the trip and to make my son his own Personal Potty Training Kit.
Tip #4: Learn Your Child’s Potty Training Personality
Huggies had some great information about potty training personality that helped us learn our son was a “Squirrel Personality”. It described him perfectly, he’s very busy and doesn’t like to slow down, he isn’t bothered with details, and he likes to play games. The site also had games to use with our son while he was using the potty to help keep him focused on the task. Visit Walmart’s website to learn your child’s personality.
Tip #5: Focus on One Step at a Time
I know with potty training we want our children to just get it right away. With our son it was imperative that we focused on one step at a time. After talking to his Occupational Therapist we decided it was best to start with helping him understand the urge to go, once he learned that we focused on him learning the steps of toileting, and then other skills. We used a picture chart with all the steps in detail to help him understand.
You can find several printables online or social stories to help you introduce those steps to your child. The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) helped us teach our son about potty training, hand washing, showering, and we plan to continue to use it to teach him other life skills. Talk with your child’s teacher about PECS resources, they can make and print them for you to use both in school and at home.
Tip #6: Reward Success
Regardless of how small the progress was we rewarded our son once he achieved goals towards potty training. Whether it was making up a cheer to cheer him on for asking to go, or giving him a snack after a full day of no accidents. These rewards helped him get excited about potty training and helped get over his sensory issues with flushing sounds.
Tip #7: Make Kids Feel Independent
Once our son had gotten the process of using the potty he wanted to it on his own. He likes feeling independent and to help him with feeling a sense of responsibility I made him a Personal Potty Training Kit. It was super easy to put together and he carries it on his own. I’m including steps on how I made the kit below.
Items You Need
- Small Backpack
- Pull-Ups® Cool & Learn® Training Pants
- Resealable Bag
- Toothbrush and Toothpaste
- First Aid Kit
- Change of Clothes
- Snacks & Juice (optional)
- Book or Small Toy (optional)
Start by choosing the right backpack for your child. I picked something that was lightweight and easy for my son to carry. If you making one for a girl you can also choose a shoulder bag or large carry all purse. I included Pull-Ups in my kit for my son since he still needs them when traveling for a long period.
Include your favorite wipes in the kit. I stick with Huggies Wipes because they are thicker than other brands I’ve used in the past. Wipes has several uses so it’s a must have us when traveling.
I put in a first aid kit because my son is very adventurous and that leads to lots of cuts and scraps. He doesn’t like bandages as much as our other children but it comes in handy if he has any falls. You can make your own kit with items you prefer instead of buying a pre-made kit like mines.
Resealable bags are also great for keeping items in his kit. You can store liquids in them, toys, books, or soiled clothing. I suggest adding at least three to five bags in your kit.
I included a travel toothbrush and toothpaste in our kit as well since we are working with my son on this. We have more success with him brushing his teeth when he’s using the ones he carried with him in his travel bag.
Pack some of your child’s favorite snacks and juice to use as rewards to just to snack on during travel. I only put a few items in our bag because my son would eat it all if we let him. After he’s used the potty successfully, initiated going to the bathroom, or finished a travel segment without accidents we offer him a treat.
A change of clothes is important just in case of accidents. You never know what could happen so it’s important to keep a change of clothes when you’re potty training, even once you’re moved on to underwear it’s still helpful. Walmart has affordable options to choose from for both boys and girls that you can easily leave in the kit and just switch once seasons change.
I store the clothes in one of the resealable bags to prevent it from getting wet or dirty while in the kit. When I use them I use the same bag to put soiled clothing to keep it from messing up the other items inside the kit.
You can customize your kit to include anything you choose, mines is just a starter guide to help give you an idea of what to include.