Potty-training. That word combination literally gives all parents of young children nightmares, and, like with most things, parents of kids with special needs or disabilities find it especially tough.
My husband and I were convinced that our son with developmental delays would begin kindergarten in training pants because he refused to go to the potty.
The reason? His grandparents, who kept him during the daytime while I worked, were trying to “force” him into using the potty by putting him in underwear and making him sit on the training toilet every hour or so.
The problem was, Cooper didn't understand any of their instructions or why he suddenly could no longer urinate or poop on himself and get a fresh diaper a few minutes later.
He had no clue what this strange seat was and why he had to sit on it with no pants or diaper on and he certainly didn't like being forced to sit on it in front of grown-ups for what seemed like hours (thought it was really on a few minutes).
During this time, I was still working full-time as an associate grocery store manager during the day and my husband worked at night. It took us a few weeks to catch on to what was going down with potty-training at Cooper's grandparent's house during the day.
When I finally did realize what was going on, I was furious.
Cooper's grandparents, though they mean well and we are beyond grateful for their help, just did not understand Cooper's developmental delays and how they affected his growth in everything, including learning to use the toilet.
They didn't understand that by using the old-fashioned methods used on their kids, who didn't suffer from any delays, they had set Cooper back tremendously from the work his dad and I were doing at home to potty-train him.
We knew that Cooper learned best by watching and doing, not by being told, so each time Cody had to go, he took Cooper with him. We never forced him to sit on the potty or to wear underwear all day. We knew that anything that was pushed on Cooper would be rejected and that he had to become comfortable with new notions before he could thrive in them.
We knew that Cooper was ready to train because he showed the common signs of readiness:
- He knew when his training pants were wet
- He stayed dry for more than two hours at a time
- He communicated when he was about to go in his training pants
- He showed keen interest in using the toilet when he watched his dad go.
By introducing the idea of using the toilet by way of accompanying his dad to the bathroom, Cooper saw using the potty as being able to do something his dad could do, instead of it being something new and scary.
Once we put a stop to his grandparent's forcible method, Cooper became toilet-trained in a matter of weeks. Because he had been forced to sit on the training seat, Cooper didn't have much use for it.
Instead, he went straight to using the “big-boy” toilet because that's what his dad used. The first time he voluntarily used the toilet to pee-pee, we cheered like Ole Miss had just beat Mississippi State at the Egg bowl in a tight score of 27-35 (that's a six-point touchdown and 1-point field goal for those who don't know American football speak).
We also rewarded him with his favorite cookie. After that, Cooper became excited about going to the potty and every time he did, he followed up by running into whatever room his dad and I were occupying and exclaiming:
“I tee-teed!! And I flushed it!!”
Of course, this always resulted in more cheering from his father and I so it was quite a while before Cooper stopped informing us of every trip to the bathroom.
If your child has a diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy what level of the GMFCS are they?