Potty training the challenging child – Where to start?

Parents have been successfully potty training their children for years. Often, taking away underwear and spending a few days close to home and potty is enough to teach a child to successfully use the toilet. But, what about the trickier child? Whether it’s a diagnosis of Autism or Sensory Processing Disorder, or the skills are just not clicking by preschool age, here is exactly where to start with potty training a challenging child.

Child being potty trained

Tracking for pee training

If your child is struggling with using the potty for both pee and poop, start with pee training. In my experience, most children learn this skill first. Step one is to track your child’s pee patterns. As a parent, I understand putting potential progress on hold for the onerous task of recording may feel like a grind. Yet, getting accurate data will soon provide you with the exact time frame for when to take your child to the toilet to “hit the mark.” It’s your child’s individualized plan.

Spend 14 straight days checking your child every 30 minutes and record if they are “wet” or “dry.” Since diapers are meant to whisk away moisture, make sure you do this check thoroughly.

Prepare for peeing in the potty

During your tracking time, use these two weeks to prepare! Begin to talk to your child about the positive changes that are coming. “Soon, you’re going to be wearing underwear full time and using the toilet just like the kids at school!” Move all diaper changes to the bathroom and involve your child in wiping themselves and tidying up. Visit your local library for age related books about pee, poop and how the body works. Place a large calendar on the wall and circle the date showing the family when diapers are done and your child will start exclusively in underwear. Collaborate with your child in choosing a special toy or snack (a reinforcer) for when they will try to pee and for when they are successful. Lastly, make sure that your toileting area is set up for small people. Proper posture and core stability are fundamental for kids to void in the potty – so a toilet seat or a small potty and a foot stool are all worthwhile.

For more tips and tricks, check out our Pinterest potty training board or contact us at Spring OT, to find out how an occupational therapist can help with your child’s toileting needs.