Tuesday, January 4, 2011

When You Begin Potty Training Your Child With Down Syndrome

Potty training a child with Down syndrome is a lot like potty training a typical child. You implement many of the same methods, and sometimes you have to do "trial and error" until you find what clicks with your child. Just remember, your child might take  a little bit longer to get it.

Once you have determined weather your child is ready to be potty trained, there are a few helpful things you can do as you begin the process. (If you are not sure weather your child is ready or not, you might want to check out the "Readiness Steps")

Remember, this is all taken from the NDSS PowerPoint presentation. If you are interested in having it, send me an e-mail and I will forward it to you.

Decide what your "potty words" will be and stick with those. If your child is not able to verbalize the words, make sure you learn the sign for those words.

Select a potty chair with your child. Although it would be nicer and easier to use the big potty, a small potty chair might be a good place to start.

Have your child sit on the potty seat after removing diapers. Allow them (or encourage them) to sit on it 2-5 minutes.

Lead your child to the potty chair at regular intervals during the day.

For 2 weeks you might want to consider "tracking" your child's diaper every 30 minutes to an hour. Basically, every half and hour to an hour check their diaper and make notes. Is it wet? Is it dirty? Is it dry? How long did he/she go with a dry diaper? Are there consistent times where your child is having a BM?

Have a tangible reward for your child if they successfully go potty in the potty chair.  Always use lots of praise for trying. You want this to be a good experience.

Avoid forcing to use the potty. If your child is fighting it every time, you might want to wait for 1-3 months and try again.

Do not use punishment when your child has an accident, or when they refuse to use the potty. A "negative" potty related experience may result in a more frustrating  situation.

On a personal note...

Before you begin, consider what your goal is, and what your definition of "potty trained" will be. For example, Nina (our daughter with Cerebral palsy) is almost at the point where we will consider her being potty trained. It means that when she has to go she lets us know. She can crawl to the bathroom, and maybe climb up on the stool, but that is as far as she can do. The rest of the process is fully dependent on our help. If we are not home, then we have to wheel carry her to the toilet.

With Nichole, we are hoping for the same. We want her to tell us when she has to go so we can take her. She cannot dress or undress herself quite yet, and I have no problem doing that. if she is telling me she has to go, and has bladder and bowel control, I will consider that potty trained.

Wish you all good luck as you embark in this great fun mothering adventure of potty training. Oh the extra clothes you will wash, the nice little puddles you will wipe along the way. But remember, if your child gets and M&M for successfully going, you can have a handful!


  1. While our daughter does not have DS, I really appreciate both this and the previous post. I need all the help I can get!

  2. My daughter also doesn't have DS but our potty training is pretty much just like this. She is 23months and we've been at it since about Thanksgiving. Since I nanny 3 children and we are always on the go I decided to take a very relaxed approach to potty training. There's no way I can clear our schedule and stay home for a week. I have to take kids places, etc. Instead we gave her a potty and she gets a sticker every time something ends up in the bowl. Sometimes she tells us and makes it. Other times she tells us while she's going. Sometimes she doesn't tell us at all. So far she's used the potty chair or seat successfully 15times. She has never successfully used a potty away from home although she asks for it and sits on it. It might be that there is too much excitement to worry about sitting on the potty elsewhere. She LOVES the stickers. Once she gets a little closer to being successful more reliably we will move on to M&Ms for sure! I think, right now, she's not quite there yet and I don't want to throw all my best stuff at her. I need something as a "pinch hitter" for motivating her. We are hoping she will be able to tell us when she needs to go by the time her little brother is born in mid April but I'm not counting on it. When she learns she learns. I'm ok with that. And we also have the goal that she know how to TELL us when she needs to go. She can't take her pants off yet either! She can only take her socks and shoes off. She can take footsie pjs off sometimes but usually she can't get the sleeves off yet. She def can't take her diaper off fast enough to make it to the potty!
    Thanks Ellen! It's good to hear I'm on the same page as other moms!

  3. My son is six (on the autism spectrum), and we're still potty training. Our journey has been longer than typical children, but we're almost there! He'll use the toilet consistently. Our main challenge right now is having him concentrate on what he's doing, so that he doesn't pee all over the floor.

    I've been using a token economy to help motivate his potty training, and if anyone is interested, they can see it at: www.tagalongadventure.etsy.com

    Your story and attitude are such an inspiration. Thank you for sharing.



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