Toilet training can be a very challenging experience for both parents and children.  Although the process is often handled in different ways for different children, here are a few general tips to keep in mind as you pursue this important skill:

Before you begin: 

Step 1:  Pre-Training

Step 2:  Prepare to go without diapers.

Talk to the folks involved in your child’s care and discuss the possibility of losing the diapers.  The most success comes from experience without diapers.  It is important to begin with daytime urination training…later, you will teach bowel training and night training.  So, for now, the child can wear pull-ups at night.  Also, if there are special circumstances (such as a long car ride or school field trip) where going without a diaper is just not practical, you can decide to put one on; however, just know that the more time spent in diapers the slower the training will go.  You have choices, don’t make yourself crazy, but know there is a trade-off involved. Also, you may find you want to put plastic sheets on car seats or on furniture.

Step 3:  Identify motivators

Step 4:  Decide how you will handle accidents

I often use options 1&2 for younger children, or those just beginning, and option 3 if the child has been working on it for a while but is successfully only part of the time.  Interrupting an accident and getting to the bathroom in mid-stream (so to speak) is the most effective way of teaching the connection.

Step 5:  Make a schedule

For most kids just starting out, we like to combine scheduled trips (where you initiate taking them to the toilet at a time when you think they might be successful) and taking them as soon as it looks like they might be voiding.  To do this well, look at your data for patterns – how long after your child eats or drinks does he/she usually go?  For most kids, we don’t want to do too many trips – or else is becomes meaningless – so aim for no more than 1 trip per hour.

Step 6:  Choose your teaching methods

I like to use a combination of methods, depending upon the child’s learning style.  For example:

Step 7:  Commit to 3 weeks

Whatever methods you choose, commit to following your plan for at least 3 weeks before you change it.  If possible, have the child practicing this skill in many different places.

Step 8:  Design a way to keep data on progress

What you need to know are the times the child voids and where it happened (accident or in toilet).

Step 9:  Just do it

Step 10:  Review your progress after 3 weeks

Talk to your team – when are the successes happening?  What can be done to make them happen more often?  Implement any additional rewards or structure of teaching that you think will help to learn this skill.

Step 11:  Make modifications as needed and try to stay consistent

Step 12:  Celebrate all successes!  If you do not get sufficient progress within 3 months, seek some more guidance from a professional who does a lot of toilet training.  There are always new methods to try!

Best of luck in the process. Here are some resources that you may find helpful: :  toilet training products  more products  tips on toilet training for children with special needs  tips specifically for children with down syndrome  alarms and adaptive equipment for older children — look for their Toileting Tool Kit.

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