4 Steps to Gradual Potty Progress - Raising a Child with Special Needs

Claire Smyth by Claire Smyth Additional Needs

Claire Smyth

Claire Smyth

Things are not so straightforward when it comes to toilet training a little girl with complex health needs.

I remember first buying her a potty when she had just turned three.

She’d been sitting up unsupported for a good while, shortly after her second birthday.

I was mentally telling myself to get a move on: she was three-years-old, for crying out loud!

My other girls were all well out of nappies at this stage.

Not that I like to compare my children to each other, or especially Brielle to the others, but you just automatically do sometimes.

I do remember the sense of normality I felt when going shopping for a little potty chair.

I was getting her a piece of equipment that didn’t need to be ordered by a therapist or doctor.

Now that is really satisfying as a parent of a child with special needs!

How satisfying it felt to be fulfilling a “normal mommy duty” of getting my daughter toilet-trained!

I picked out an adorable little chair that looked like a mini-toilet, with a little flush handle and toilet-roll holder, complete with lights, songs and sound effects.

I thought she would just love all the special effects given her hearing and vision deficits.

Well, let me tell you that she hated that little potty.

No, she was terrified of it.

Needless to say, the first year of trying to get her potty-savvy didn’t go so well.

She would shake and cry and sometimes vomit when we tried the chair so we didn’t do it very often.

1. I decided not to push it

I decided to wait and follow her lead.

We gave the hardly-used potty to a friend.

A year down the road, she takes an interest in a potty chair lid in Granny & Granda’s bathroom.

How fun it is to pull it off!

It is from the stool-type potty that her older sister once used, now residing at her grandparent’s house.

I talked to her about the potty and with time, she started experimenting and sitting on the padded rim.

2. No pressure

A few months later, I moved the potty chair to our bathroom and left it accessible to her, beside the toilet, so whenever she wanted to explore or have a go, it was there.

I could hear the clang of the lid being flung on the tiled floor!

3. Despite her limited mobility and cerebral palsy, she is so eager to help dress and undress herself

So we made the transition from nappies to pull-up pants, so she can help pull those up too.

She loves finding the places to put her legs in the pants!

4. I’ve met with a continence nurse specialist twice now

I am getting some good advice and support there.

Brielle still has mixed success on the potty.

Communication is difficult, and mostly we are habit training and reading her cues, but I feel we are moving in the right direction.

Most of all, she is happy and content with using the potty now.

I do hold out hope that someday she will be fully trained, but realistically, that is way down the road.


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