10 Tips For Toilet Training Children With Special Needs

Every child’s toilet training journey is different, however, we hope these 10 toilet training tips will help both you and your child best navigate this change.

10 Tips For Toilet Training Children With Special Needs

Every child’s toilet training journey is different, however, we hope these 10 toilet training tips will help both you and your child best navigate this change.

Toilet training can be a challenging milestone for any child, but it can present additional difficulties for children with special needs.

Whether they have developmental delays, physical disabilities, or sensory sensitivities, there are several tips that may help make the toilet training process more manageable and successful for a child with special needs.

Physical and developmental disabilities can mean it takes a child a little longer to learn how to use the toilet. This can include diagnoses such as cerebral palsy, spina bifida and spinal cord injury, autism and fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).

Before we dive in, remember that if you’re having any ongoing difficulties with toilet training that your child is struggling to overcome, you should always speak to your child’s paediatrician and/or specialists for appropriate assistance and guidance.

1. Assess your child’s readiness to toilet train

The first thing to consider before you start to toilet train your child is if they seem and feel ready to - both physically and emotionally.

Signs of readiness can include staying dry for longer periods of time (at least two hours), demonstrating awareness of needing to wee and poo, expressing wanting to use the potty or toilet, and indicating their discomfort with soiled diapers.

2. Set up a routine

Many children with special needs appreciate routine and predictability. Creating a consistent toilet training schedule, such as sitting on the toilet at specific times during the day, to help them anticipate and adjust to the routine can prove to be really helpful.

For overnights, we recommend our Magics Youth Pants. With Magical Tube technology that allows for fast-acting absorbency, these pants can keep your child dry for up to 12 hours. They also odour-lock for up to 12 hours if you need to use them during the day, ensuring your child is feeling fresh between changes! Magics' super soft material and design means they feel just like real underwear, too.

3. Adapt your environment

Make modifications to the bathroom environment to accommodate your child's needs. This could include installing supportive equipment, such as handles or grab bars on either side of the toilet, or raised toilet seats to aid those with physical disabilities.

Ensuring the bathroom is well-lit, calm, and free of distractions that may overwhelm or overstimulate your child is also important.

4. Try visual supports

Many children with special needs benefit from visual cues and support. Use visual schedules or picture charts to illustrate the steps involved in using the toilet. This visual guidance can provide clarity and structure, helping them understand and follow the process. You may also be able to find animated videos or the like online that visually demonstrates how to use the toilet.

Also depending on your child’s circumstance, using sign language for common toileting words and phrases can also reinforce learning.

Social stories can also be helpful here. Social stories explain social situations namely to children with autism, which help them learn ways of behaving in situations. You can read more about social stories here. You can also speak to a psychologist or speech pathologist who can help you write a social story catered to your child’s individual needs.

5. Consider sensory sensitivities

Sensory sensitivities can have a major impact on toilet training for children with special needs.

Identify if your child has any specific sensory issues and make any adjustments to your toilet training routine accordingly.

For example, if they are sensitive to certain textures, consider using softer or hypoallergenic toilet paper.

6. Use positive reinforcement

Praise and rewards can be powerful motivators for children with special needs. Use verbal praise, high-fives or hugs (as long as they don’t have sensory sensitivities to these), or even small rewards like stickers or tokens, to celebrate their progress and achievements during toilet training.

This positive reinforcement can encourage them to continue making progress and also helps them build confidence.

7. Individualise your approach to toilet training

Every child is unique, so it's essential to tailor the toilet training approach to their specific needs and abilities. Consider their strengths and challenges and adapt techniques accordingly.

For example, if they struggle with fine motor skills, provide assistance with clothing fasteners or consider using adaptive clothing options.

8. Practice patience and consistency

Toilet training requires patience. Be prepared for setbacks and accidents and maintain a calm and supportive attitude throughout the process. Don’t make your child feel as though they’ve done something ‘wrong’ by not making it to the toilet in time.

Consistency is key, so try your best to stick to the established routine and strategies you’ve set and got your child used to, even if progress seems slow.

9. Seek professional guidance if you need it

As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, if you're facing significant challenges or are feeling unsure about how to approach toilet training, don't hesitate to seek guidance from professionals.

Occupational therapists, pediatricians, or special education teachers can provide valuable insights, strategies, and support to help you navigate the process.

10. Celebrate milestones

Remember to celebrate both small and significant milestones along the way. Each step towards independent toileting is a significant accomplishment for a child with special needs. Recognise and acknowledge their progress to foster a sense of achievement and prid. This will help to further encourage their progress.

So to wrap up our 10 tips for toilet training children with special needs, as a parent or carer you require patience, flexibility, and a willingness to adapt to your child’s requirements. With a supportive and structured approach, you can help your child develop essential toileting skills and increase their independence in this important part of daily life.

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