How to Potty Train a Developmentally Delayed Child

by Jennifer Zimmerman, Demand Media Google
    Make potty time fun!

    Make potty time fun!

    Potty training a child with a developmental delay won't be easy, but it'll be rewarding. Of course, potty training any child isn't much fun. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children with developmental delays may take anywhere from a few months to a year to become fully potty trained. They may not complete their training until they are 5 years old or older. But the sense of accomplishment you'll feel, as well as the major boost to your child's self-esteem, will be well worth it. Bonus: you won't have to buy diapers anymore!

    Items you will need

    • Underwear

    Preparation

    Step 1

    Look for readiness signs, such as the ability to pull down his pants, interest in going on the potty, understanding of being wet versus being dry, and the ability to stay dry for 2 hours at a time. Minimal verbal skills, such as the ability to understand one-step directions and to ask for help when needed, are also a sign of readiness. These signs are the same ones used with typically developing children; they'll just come later for children with developmental delays.

    Step 2

    Talk to your child's pediatrician, therapists and teachers. They can help you assess your child's readiness skills. If your child has other special needs, such as sensory or motor skill problems, therapists might need to focus on readiness skills during therapy before you can try potty training at home.

    Step 3

    Check her diaper every hour. When you do, calmly announce whether she is wet or dry. You will need to teach a child with developmental delays about body awareness before she can begin potty training.

    Step 4

    Take him into the bathroom with you and point out that you are wet when you are going and dry when you are done. Explain that big kids and grown ups put their wet in the potty, not in diapers.

    Step 5

    Pick out a potty together that he will enjoy using. Since a child with a developmental delay is more likely to start training at 4 or 5 years old, a seat that fits over the toilet is probably the best choice. It will also help him connect what he has seen you do and what he will be doing soon.

    Step 6

    Buy some cool underwear with your kiddo for inspiration.

    Training

    Step 1

    Sit her on the potty every hour. This can get tedious, but repetition maximizes the opportunity for success.

    Step 2

    Keep him on the potty for five to 10 minutes. This gives him a better shot at being successful and earning praise and rewards, which work as motivators.

    Step 3

    Provide her with some special books, music or toys for when she is sitting on the potty. It's not very fun for anyone to spend that much time in the bathroom.

    Step 4

    Focus on one step at a time. Start with voiding into the potty. When she has that down, focus on wiping. Then you can work on pulling pants up and down. While kids with typical development can usually work on all of these skills together, kids with developmental delays need to master each skill before moving on to the next.

    Step 5

    Praise your child for sitting on the potty. When he actually goes, make sure to explain what he's done: "You've gone pee on the potty!" Make sure he understands the connection between your praise and what he's doing with his body.

    Step 6

    Offer a reward. A small candy for each trip can be a powerful motivator. Once she gets the hang of it, you can reduce the candy to each successful trip. Then you can phase it out entirely.

    Tip

    • Prepare yourself emotionally before you start. Make sure you have people you can talk to about the process, healthy ways to relieve stress, and friends and family members who can give you a break sometimes.

    Warning

    • Children with severe developmental delays may never be completely potty trained.

    About the Author

    Jennifer Zimmerman is a former preschool and elementary teacher who has been writing professionally since 2007. She has written numerous articles for The Bump, Band Back Together, Prefab and other websites, and has edited scripts and reports for DWJ Television and Inversion Productions. She is a graduate of Boston University and Lewis and Clark College.

    Photo Credits

    • Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images