What can an OT do to help with toilet training?

Posted by on Jun 2, 2017 in Life Skills

A very common question we hear from parents at Spring OT is “Why doesn’t my child use the potty yet?” As Occupational Therapists, who are experts on promoting independence in self-care, we address toileting with children and their parents on a regular basis.

Little Girl On Potty

One of my favourite things about being an OT is the profession’s holistic outlook. From the first day of our university training, we are taught to look at solving problems using multiple frames of reference. While most parenting books will offer toilet training solutions using a behavioural frame of reference (“give your child a treat every time they pee in the potty”) and an environmental frame of reference (“use a stool for your child’s feet when they sit on a large toilet”), our staff also use the sensory framework.

What does a sensory approach have to do with toilet training?

Toileting, along with feeding, is one of the most sensory-based activities of daily living. It is a skill that is loaded with sensory feedback: smells, sounds, funny textures, and the need for a child to be able to feel the sensation of needing to “go” in their little bellies and bladders. For children with sensory processing challenges, meaning children who struggle with achieving a “just right” or calm state in body and brain, toilet training can be very overwhelming. It’s hard to feel when your bladder is full if your brain is trying to avoid the bathroom echoes and your body wants to seek motion, like running or climbing!

Look for an Occupational Therapist who has specific training in sensory interventions, who can help build a sensory profile of your child, allowing parents to become experts in reading their child’s sensory cues.