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Ode to Potty Training

By: Hayley Goleniowska

Not an ode exactly, more of a nod towards potty training/toilet training/toiletting.

One of the most stressful uphill challenges in any parent of a young child's life.

Add in the fact that your child has a learning disability (deep sigh).

Already that hill of a task has become Mount Everest, hasn't it?

Well, yes, teaching your little one to use the toilet will be tricky, but take a deep breath, accept that fact, and look around for tips that might help your journey become easier and more humorous.

First of all, accept that ALL children are different, and the timetable for wanting to use the toilet will differ for each one. Any time from 3 years to 8 years and upwards is 'normal' for a child with Down Syndrome.

Wait for the cue to come from your child. Do they pull at their clothes or tell you when they are wet or soiled?

Do they try to imitate older siblings or friends by trying to use a potty or toilet? Are diapers dry for longer periods of time? Then they are ready for your help to move them forward in the toileting game.

This is just our experience, yours will be different. Let yourself be led by your child. (And burn any potty training manuals written by ladies who don't have children of their own..!)

To begin with we sat Natty on a potty just before bath time each night. It was fun, and there was no pressure, she relaxed while the bath ran, and occasionally produced a piddle! We did this for about a year without moving forward.

A year and a bit before she started school, we discussed potty training with her pre-school. They were keen to help out and we made plans together so that we did the same at home and at pre-school.

We spoke to a lovely Continence Nurse, I think I inadvertently pushed past several short lists, simply found her work number and called her. She was a wealth of knowledge! She made sure there wasn't a physical barrier to starting potty training. For example: Could Natty go several hours with a dry diaper? Once we were sure this was the case, she suggested using a ladies' incontinence pad such as TENA Lady inside a pretty pair of girls underwear This would allow her to choose her own pretty 'big girls' panties, and feel grown up, with all the security of a diaper.

We had tried potty training diapers in the past, such as pull-ups as they let the child feel when they are wet, but the bulkiness and similarity to a baby diaper was now holding us back.

We started using the pads. Each day we asked her at least twenty times if she needed to go.

We took her each time we went, and each time her sister went to the bathroom. After a few weeks, we began to get a few 'hits' on the potty.

The progress was painstakingly slow, and I guarantee you diapers would have been the easier option.

Particularly tempting as they are free from the government for children with disabilities.However, I focused on the end goal and refused them.

We began to buy smaller pads in the hope that by feeling wet she would ask for the toilet. This didn't happen, but we calmly took spare clothes wherever we went and simply changed her several times a day, when damp.

We focussed on the successes and praised her highly. We never once got upset with Natty for her failures (although I have privately screamed in a cupboard when she has wet on a freshly made bed, new carpet or couch.)

Finally we reached a point, during the summer, where we felt as though Natty was being a bit lazy even though she was capable of more.

We bit the bullet and stopped using any kind of protection during the day. No turning back.

Day one - 6 accidents.

Day two - 5 accidents.

That's a lot of washing...but hey, it was summer.

We stepped up our reminders. We realized that Natty preferred sitting on the toilet rather than the potty, so we bought a step stool and a comfy, padded child's toilet seat. Most are even available with arms to help independence.

We bought 'Pee Pads' to protect car seats and chairs.

The accidents continued, but with perhaps the same number of successes each day. We questioned Natty's readiness, but I think I could be quoted as saying I knew that she was ready and that she would start school in regular underwear.

Then after day 10 we noticed only 3 accidents. This was the point of no return.

We bought hilarious fluffy toys with the names Pee and Poo. We encouraged Natty to hold whichever one she needed at the time (and if that failed, they at least made us giggle during the many hours spent in the bathroom.

We made up ridiculous songs "If you do a weeeee weeeee on the tooooilet, you can have a chocolate drop, yum, yum, yummmm" Did I mention the bribery?

We read books and looked at flash cards while Natty sat on her throne to pass the time.

Star charts meant nothing to Natty, but give them a try. We also bought a large pink potty that sang when she would pee, but she got wise to how it worked and simply pushed the buttons inside to get the reward.

Potty training Natty lasted about 6 months. By age 4 she wore regular underwear with very minimal accidents.

I think we can count that as a resounding success, don't you think?

The Pee&Poo brand was established in late 2004, in Stockholm, Sweden.

Pee&Poo was founded by Emma Megitt, as a result of a her masters degree in graphic design.

Pee&Poo became an instant success both in Sweden and abroad, particularly in the UK and USA. The duo have been featured in a wide variety of magazines and TV, for example The Pee&Poo duo marry equal parts of aesthetic and educational elements, and has thus become a success among children an adults alike.

Pee&Poo works just as well as potty training inspiration, as a cuddly companion.

About Hayley Goleniowska:

Hayley writes articles for magazines and journals and speaks at conferences to teachers and medical professionals, including the British Institute of Learning Disabilities and St George's teaching Hospital in London.

Hayley's mission is to inspire new parents and show the world that Down's syndrome is truly wonderful and that life will carry on, only just a little bit better.

Click HERE to follow Hayley's blog and to connect with her.

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  • Our son is 6 and has Down Syndrome and he stays dry all night. During the day he stays dry IF we do the prompting. Vary rarely does he tell us when he has to use the toilet. When he has a BM in his pants it doesn’t seem to bother him at all. I try to keep him in big boy underwear as much as possible. Any other suggestions?

    Karla Putnam on

  • Have a 5 year old Grandson….my BabyLove…need to know where I can get the Pee,Poop dolls for this summers potty training job….Thank You so much for the encouragement I truely believe he is ready….

    Suzie Hinshaw on

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