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Something Special About Potty Training

by C. Finkbeiner | June 2nd, 2015 | Preschool, Special Needs

preschool boy (400x400)Potty training my first child was not as picture perfect as Huggies would depict it to be in a Pull-Ups commercial. All of the doctors and other parents told me that my son would be ready to start training between 18 and 24 months, when in reality he was not even close until past his third birthday. I remember being chastised by his preschool as they threatened not to move him up to the next level until he was officially and completely potty trained. This was before I knew what Asperger’s Syndrome was, and as a young parent, I was humiliated because my son “didn’t get it” when it came to the Cheerios and Froot Loops bulls-eyes in the toilet bowl.

And then one magical day, it happened. I realized that my son was not understanding the reason for using the toilet. It had nothing to do with his inability to follow directions, or stubbornness. It had to do with the concept of what the toilet was for and what it meant to him and his comfort.

So, I did what I had to do. I took the pull-up off, and I slid that boy into a pair of tighty whities. He questioned the pants and my judgement for putting them on him.

“Mom, what if I have to go pee?”

“Well, then, you will have to go use the toilet, won’t you?”

“No! I won’t!”

Eight hours and four pairs of soiled underwear later, he successfully used the potty. It suddenly occurred to him deep inside that the struggle is getting over the fear of doing something new and stepping out of your comfort zone. No one is comfortable in wet underpants. From then on, he used the potty with very infrequent accidents. It was like a lightbulb went off in his head.

Special needs kids like my son do not always respond to traditional methods of instruction, in the classroom and in real life. In usual situations, a child learns to potty train by repeating actions being learned from their adult figures. A child’s special need can vary from not having the motor skills to control such behavior to simply fearing the change away from what is comfortable, and that is the convenience of “going” in your own pants.

My advice to parents who are having troubles with potty training their kids, special needs or otherwise, are as follows: Don’t give up, it’s only temporary! Stay on them to try every time, kids need repetition and routine. Determine if your child is purposely not using the potty for a reason (some really do fear a monster down there). Reinforce to your child that they should not enjoy feeling soiled, and should enjoy the feeling of relief and remaining clean.

And if all else fails, ditch the diapers. It may be messy at first, but it teaches many lessons in self-control, self-reliance and personal hygiene that will last a lifetime.

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