How to Potty Train Your Child With Special Needs

CME WebsitesChild Development, Parenting a Child with Special Needs, Special Needs Diagnoses

If your child is diagnosed with autism, Down Syndrome, mental retardation, cerebral palsy, or other condition of developmental delay, it may be more difficult to train him or her to use a toilet.

Signs Your Child with Special Needs is Ready for
Potty Training

While most children between 18 months and 3 years of age are ready to learn to use a toilet, a child with special needs may not be developmentally ready until they are older.

Here are the signs that your child has the intellectual and/or physical readiness to be potty trained:

  • Able to follow simple instruction and be cooperative
  • Is uncomfortable with dirty diapers and wants them changed
  • Recognizes when he or she has a full bladder or needs to have a bowel movement
  • Is able to tell you when they need to urinate or have a bowel movement.
  • Asks to use the potty chair or asks to wear regular underwear

Here are signs that your child is physically ready to be potty trained:

  • You can tell your child is about to urinate or have a bowel movement by their facial expressions, posture, or by what they say.
  • Your child can stay dry for at least 2 hours at a time.
  • Your child has regular bowel movements.

Being able to at least partially dress and undress is helpful during potty training. If your child has a condition that makes it difficult for him/her to physically get on the potty or get undressed, know that special potty chairs exist. You can ask your child’s doctor for other recommendations based on your child’s condition.

It doesn’t matter if your child does or does not have special needs, you’ll be more successful at potty training if you:

  • Do not start potty training right before moving, bringing a new baby into the home, or any other stressful event.
  • Do not push your child too fast.
  • Do not punish your child for the inevitable mistakes.
  • Always provide encouragement and praise when your child is successful .

In addition, its important that your child can sense when he or she is wet. Sometimes diapers can actually hinder the process since they can keep a child too dry. In that case, changing to underwear or training pants during the day might help your child become more successful at using a toilet more quickly.