Ah, potty training, the one parenting task that most parents of toddlers love to hate. While few parents likely find potty training to be the favorite of their jobs, those with children who have sensory issues know that the dreaded process can quickly go from routine parenting job to ultimate torture, for both you and your child. Before you throw in the toilet tissue in defeat, you need to know that there is hope. Your child will not enter college in diapers, but you may need to take a different approach to this process to help your little one overcome these sensory obstacles.
Children with sensory issues will be ready to potty train at a later date than those who do not have these issues, but the readiness signs are still the same. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children show specific readiness skills when they are ready to toilet train. Is your child telling you “no” repeatedly? Good news: that’s a toilet training readiness sign. Other signs include the ability to put things away, walk and sit independently, communicate the need to go potty effectively, pull clothes up and down, and imitate parents’ behavior. Children who are ready also usually show an interest in toilet training and are able to stay dry at least two hours at a time during the day.
Cater to Your Child’s Sensitivities
Before you begin the process, stop and think about what it must feel like to your child. Remember, your child’s senses do not work like yours, so that cold, hard potty may feel like sitting on a throne of ice. Who would want to sit on that? Provide a padded seat instead. The rough toilet paper could feel like sandpaper to your child’s sensitive backside. Use soft, flushable wipes instead. A child sensitive to loud sounds may panic at the sound of the toilet flushing. Simply flush after the child leaves the room. If you know your child’s sensitivities, make adjustments in the process so that toilet training is not as traumatic.
Add Fiber, Fluids and Fun
If going potty hurts, your child is going to be averse to doing it, no matter what you try. You can help by giving your child fiber-rich foods, especially fruits, that will make the stools soft and avoid problems with constipation. Plenty of liquids will also help with the process, as they will make the child need to urinate more often. Finally, do not forget to make the process fun! Use stickers and small rewards to encourage your child to keep trying.
Schedule Potty Trips
Because sensory processing disorders make it hard for your child to feel the need to go, working with a schedule can be the most effective. Provide a drink, and then take the child potty about 30 minutes after the drink, when the chance of success is the highest. Over time, your child will learn to recognize that feeling, and the schedule will provide plenty of opportunities for success on the potty, which will motivate both of you to stick with this process.