Charlie is three and a half now, and most of her little peers at kindy are independently toileting.
Charlie is non-mobile and non-verbal, so I had absolutely no idea how to begin this journey for her, or whether it would even be possible.
She is, however, the youngest of four, so we’ve been down this road before and come out unscathed.
I went to the shops and bought terrycloth knickers - absorbent enough for a tiny accident but still not a nappy - dragged out the old pink plastic potty and started to make a plan.
We decided that we’d put her ‘on the pot’ as soon as she woke up, directly after each meal and once before bed.
The only problem was that she absolutely despised sitting on it.
She’d tense up and cry, both fairly counterproductive in my estimation.
Plan B, then.
I bought two different kinds of ‘toilet helper’ – one with steps and hand-grips that sits above the toilet seat, and one small cushioned ‘inner ring’ that sits inside the adult seat.
The ‘step’ version was a disaster.
It’s made of rigid plastic and is designed for children who can independently climb on and off of it.
It’s also quite wobbly and Charlie just didn’t feel stable on it, even with the handles.
We tried the other one and it worked like a charm!
I should mention here that the potty and the ‘step’ chair cost a total of about $50 compared to $5 for the cushioned insert – I wish I’d bought that first!
This is when I realised that Charlie had never really seen what’s supposed to happen.
My older three children, all highly mobile as toddlers, would often follow me into the bathroom and continue their conversation as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening.
In fact, they’d seek me out almost every time I slipped off to go the loo (it’s like they have some kind of anti-parental-privacy radar).
By the time we introduced the idea of toileting to them, they already had a pretty good idea of what went on in there.
It had never occurred to me to willingly take Charlie to the toilet with me, but of course that’s what we had to do.
Parenting is certainly not the most dignified profession.
We still don’t know how much she takes in or understands, but there must be some cognition going on because we soon had regularly productive toilet trips!
We were so proud the first few times she pooed on the loo that I think we frightened her with our celebrations!
It’s difficult to stick to our toilet timetable every day, especially when we’re balancing the needs of other children and we can’t always be at home, within arm’s reach of the toilet.
Public toilets can be really tricky, and I haven’t quite worked my way up to carrying around her little seat yet.
We’re getting less action on the loo and more in bed at night, which had previously all but ceased.
We’ve moved from the ‘knickers’ to ‘pull-up’ nappies because I just couldn’t face the extra washing and more.
I really need to pull my socks up and get back into it.
As Charlie gets older and starts spending more time away from me, I’m going to have to enlist the support of teachers and other caregivers as well, and it still seems a big daunting task even for me so I’m not sure how that’s going to go.
We’re not there yet, so I definitely don’t have all the answers, but the best advice I can give to other parents facing these questions with their special-needs children is to simply start somewhere.
Even if you just take your child to the toilet with you and show them what you eventually want them to do.
Any idea deserves a shot, and if you overthink it you’ll never do any of it because it’s all just so damned huge.
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