If you have a child with Down syndrome, eventually the issue of toilet training will arise. So how can you help your Down syndrome child learn this essential step toward independence more quickly and easily?
Many mom’s have shared with me the frustration of repeated failures and attempts over a long period of time to teach their Down syndrome child how to effectively and consistently use the toilet. Your child may soon be entering preschool and you may worry what will happen. But do not despair! Here are solutions and suggestions that have worked for many other moms in your same shoes.
First of all, relax and realize that it is only a matter of time before you can say goodbye to those diapers once and for all. Your child with Down syndrome will eventually master the task. Try not to rush your son or daughter. He will leave those diapers behind when he is ready…so have patience.
Seven Tips To Help With Toilet Training
- Know your child’s schedule. Keep a log of your child’s voiding activities. Check his diaper every 15-minutes or so to see what he is doing (bowl movement, urine) and when. Keep this log for a few days and eventually you will notice a pattern — most children’s bodies follow a fairly consistent pattern. And this pattern can help you plan and schedule toilet times for your child in anticipation of his or her pattern.
- Draw a Picture. Down syndrome children are often visual learners. Work with your child to draw with crayons a picture of the toilet. Tape a picture to the bathroom door and also have a picture that you can hold up to your child when you are ready for a bathroom break.
- Make sure he needs to go. Increase the likelihood that your child is ready when you are for a toilet training session. In anticipation of your child’s voiding needs, give your child something to drink 15 minutes before you plan on a bathroom lesson. Tell your child that he will soon be using the toilet and monitor him or her to get a sense of when he needs to go. It is often useful to hold up the sign of the toilet that your child drew to visually remind and help your son or daughter understand that it is soon “toilet time.”
- Make it fun! Kids are kids, whether they have Down syndrome or not. Remember that your loved one is a sweat heart and an adorable little child. Kids want to have fun and play…so make potty time fun too! Have your child’s favorite books…perhaps a coloring book…available during his or her time in the bathroom. It’s not only adults who use the bathroom as a library.
- Keep it short. Kids do not want to spend all day on the toilet. So keep it short and simple. If your child has not “finished his duty” within 5 or so minutes, leave. Come back later. Don’t force your child to sit on the toilet all day waiting. If you make this common mistake, your child will begin to associate the toilet with an unpleasant experience and this may cause a delay in successful toilet training.
- Praise and reward your child. Let’s face it, we all respond to positive reinforcement. We all like to be praised and acknowledged for a job well done. If your child is successful in his toilet duties, make a big deal of it. Provide lots of praise. Perhaps a healthy food treat will work. Many kids love stickers (dinosaurs for boys or ballerinas for girls) often work well. My children loved to have stickers placed on the back of their hands or on their shirts. They would wear them as a badge of pride. A loving squeeze, hug or high five works wonders too!
- Be Patient. Down syndrome children not only are delayed mentally, but most have challenges with muscle tone and muscle control. These issues make it almost certain that your loved one will reach the toilet training finish line more slowly than the average child of his same age.
Remember, your Down syndrome child will eventually get the hang of it so enjoy these wonderful childhood years and provide patient, loving support as your child learns this important toilet training lesson as well as other lessons for which you will need to prepare.