5 Tips to Potty Train an SPD Toddler

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!

11 thoughts on “5 Tips to Potty Train a Toddler with Sensory Processing Disorder

  1. How did you know this was what we were doing over spring break? 🙂

    I am hoping that this time is the trick! I have a sneaking suspicion it will be considering that I bought two HUGE boxes of pull ups that Aiden unpacked every single pull up from (there for if this is a success there will be no returning them) we will be giving them away, and doing it joyfully because we won’t need them!

    He is doing it all on his own time, sticker chart is working miracles this time around and he has been staying dry all night for a few months now, but now we are going all day in underwear dry (even in when not at home) and keeping his pull up dry at night! Fingers crossed!

    I am so ready to not need pull up’s.

  2. Great information. Rewards worked great with my son. He had surgery just when we had started potty training and we almost had a step back but rewards kept us going.

  3. My son Dylan is 3 years and 3 months, he is STILL being potty trained, he has sensory issues, will only eat certain foods and doesn’t like the feel of things, taking some of your advice on this! I also try and bribe him with pop tarts or the ipad lol

  4. As a mother of two boys, I felt that they just weren’t interested for a long time,
    there was too much else going on and they wanted to be off doing
    it not worrying about stuff like using the potty.
    Use every opportunity to show your child precisely what it is you expect them to do.
    ” Choose words that you don’t mind repeating over and over.

  5. I was just curious if anyone has tips for #2. My son has SPD and is totally fine with #1 in the potty but can not figure out #2 for anything. I feel like I’ve tried it all. He is 3.5!

    1. Hi Julie,

      I’m sorry you’re having a difficult time. That’s so hard. I haven’t had that experience, but I do know that this is a very common problem. If you are on Facebook, there is a group called Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) Support that I have found to be very helpful. It is a closed group, so what you post or comment there is not seen by anyone except those in the group. Here is another page with a lot of tips (http://www.sensory-processing-disorder.com/The_SPD_Companion-SPD-and-potty-training.html). Hope this helps. Much love to you. It’s such a trying time!


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