Sensory kids are tough. They generally do what they want, when they want and ain’t nobody going to convince them otherwise! For months, I had anxiety about potty training C. Would he be ready? Would he play games with us, like the first time we attempted? Would he have major meltdowns?
We found these five things helped us navigate the murky process of potty training an SPD kiddo.
1. Let your child take the lead. We tried to potty train C just before he was 2.5 years old. He figured out he could control it, but turned it into a game of running away from us and leaving a stream of urine in his wake. He just wasn’t ready. We tabled the whole thing for about six months, when he started requesting diaper cream for his butt. Really, kid?! This time he was excited to wear underwear and go in the potty.
2. Patience. As with every other aspect of our SPD kiddo’s life, we need to approach potty training with great patience. Yes, he sometimes gets anxious about taking off his underwear and ends up going in his pants. Yes, he sometimes gets wrapped up in playing his cars and refuses to take a break to go to the bathroom. Yes, there will be lots of messes to clean up. But if we remain patient, the rewards are big. He doesn’t like sitting in wet underwear. He will learn at his pace.
3. Ease the transitions. C has a difficult time with transitions. Even diaper changes were a challenge, because he hated having his pants taken off and put back on. The same goes with changing from an overnight diaper to underwear in the morning or putting on a pull-up before a car ride. We warn him of the chance at least 10 minutes in advance and continue to remind him every few minutes. When it’s time to change, he gets to hold onto his favorite car and we talk about exciting plans for the day or sing his favorite song while we change him.
4. Use rewards! Every time C keeps his underwear dry, I give him loads of praise and offer him the sticker of his choice to put on his potty chart. When he poops on the potty, he is rewarded with a car. They’re less than $1 each and it is well worth the ear-to-ear smile of excitement and pride!
5. Incorporate something they enjoy. For example, C loves to sing so we sing, “Wheels on the Bus,” every time we wash his hands after using the potty. He still struggles with rubbing his hands together to lather the soap (he doesn’t like things on his hands), but now hand washing is an enjoyable activity for him while we work on the mechanics.
Potty training is a difficult process, and when it comes to our children with sensory processing disorder it can be truly daunting. I’d love to hear your tips, tricks and success stories in the comments!