Summer for many families means new routines and a new set of objectives to accomplish before the next school year begins. One of these objectives may be what seems to be a most daunting task with sensory kids – potty training.
Many families choose to start potty training during the summer months for several reasons:
- they’d like a child to be potty trained before advancing in the coming school year;
- the daily schedule for the potty training child or his/her siblings is generally more relaxed;
- and it just seems so much easier to familiarize a child with the process when he can run around the yard, buck-naked in the sun.
All of these factors played a role in my decision to potty train during the summer.
Potty Time Challenges
Potty training is a daunting task for any parent. If your child is on the spectrum or struggles with another ism, you may be feeling particular trepidation. Complicating matters, potty training is one of those parenting tasks that everyone has an opinion about that they are compelled to share with you, which may or may not be helpful.
When a child is challenged by language or processing issues, sensory isms, or a low social register, what works for one child, one parent, or one family may not necessarily work for you and yours. Take into account the eighth sense of interoception which may be askew or simply delayed. This sense is the body’s internal sense that tells the child when to go potty. Many children with sensory isms may not experience the sensation of needing to go until they are going.
Gwen Wild, OTR/L of Sensational Brain reports, “Research indicates it takes an average of 1.6 years for children with Autism to be potty-trained.”
Gwen, who offers a webinar entitled “Toilet Training from a Sensory Perspective” shares, “I encourage parents to begin making it part of the child’s routine by integrating at least six trips to the toilet each day. The idea is to make bathroom time a stress-free part of the child’s normal daily routine, without any initial expectations.”
Arming yourself with a variety of resources can be critically important in navigating the summertime “potty-time” days ahead.
The No-Cry Potty Training Solution
The No-Cry Potty Training Solution by Elizabeth Pantley offers a solid manual on potty training the typical child. If you have not potty trained any child before, I recommend beginning the process by educating yourself on a potty training plan that works for typical children for the simple reason that it may, in fact, work for yours. As Pantley points out, “the fundamental principles are the same for any child, as are the steps of progression.” Pantley’s resource addresses all of the necessary key points:
- readiness (both yours and your child’s)
- setting up and carrying out your plan
- Q and A from various scenarios
Regarding typical potty training challenges, the book addresses issues such as traveling, using public toilets, constipation, accidents and bed-wetting with a brief section on special needs.
In her introduction, Pantley reminds us to “Relax: It’s Simply Natural.…it can be as normal and uncomplicated as teaching your child how to walk, talk, or use a spoon.”
However, for those of us for whom none of these things have come naturally, I recommend an additional resource that specifically targets the issues of autism and special needs.
The Potty Journey: Guide to Toilet Training Children with Special Needs, Including Autism and Related Disorders
The Potty Journey by Judith Coucouvanis, MA, APRN, BC is an excellent resource to supplement your potty training plan. She addresses issues of training at a later age, and how to incorporate your child’s team of providers into the plan. There are no quick fixes implied or suggested. As the title states, it can be a “journey” and the author provides scenarios in which parents who do end up having a protracted period of training can gather comfort and support that the process is still progressing as it should.
Visual support strategies are included, as are behavioral systems customized for children who are not motivated by superhero underwear alone. A family with a child anywhere along the spectrum will find something useful here. A particular favorite is the “Hidden Curriculum of Public Restrooms” which outlines for an older child the social rules of public restroom use.
Stock Up on Children’s Books to Reduce Anxiety
Owning a selection of children’s books about toileting can significantly reduce your child’s anxiety about the process. I particularly enjoyed those books that had microchips of potty sounds for my child who was afraid of the flushing.
Don’t be afraid to use video and still photography. With digital at-home solutions, you keep your child’s potty photos out of the local photo-mart and can be confident using the images to help increase his comfort on the toilet.
Taking video or creating a photo-enhanced social story can help your child visualize themselves on the toilet. If you have the capability, use your phone to take a quick video clip of your child on a public potty as well (the sounds are entirely different).
If your child is an iPad user, explore the apps that are available including potty books on the iPad, and incentivize potty sitting with iPad time. Some helpful apps:
Gwen Wild tells us, “Success will come with time.”
Good luck with your summertime potty adventures!