Potty Genius Blog
Potty Training a Child with Sensory Issues
There are a variety of sensory triggers and developmental aspects that can contribute to potty training difficulty. Parents need to know that they’re not alone. There are tips that parents have been more than happy to share from their own experiences.
by Angie Long
Angie is an experienced freelance writer and mother of two. She has extensive experience working in professional training, including the development and evaluation of training and exam material. She has a background in elementary education. Angie has a 4-year-old who still struggles with potty training, yet her 8-year-old nailed it by two years of age.
According to WebMD, sensory processing disorder (SPD) is a condition in which the brain has trouble receiving and responding to information that comes in via the senses. Although there is no distinct medical diagnosis, it is commonly seen in children with developmental conditions, such as autism spectrum disorder. Symptoms may include the following:
- A painful or overwhelming response to common sounds
- Bumping into things
- Difficulty playing with others or engaging in conversation
- Sensitivity to certain types of clothing
- Failure to respond to pain
- Difficulty tolerating change
Potty Training Tips for 5 Common Sensory Issues
- Difficulty recognizing when it is time to go: In children with sensory processing disorder there is a faulty connection between the bladder’s nerve interceptors and the brain. This is no fault of the child’s. You’ll have to have patience as you try to stick to a regular schedule during which you require them to at least try to use the toilet on a regular basis.
- Attachment to the feeling of wearing a diaper: Children with sensory processing disorder tend to dislike change. Considering the fact that they’ve worn diapers their whole lives, it is understandable that there may be some hesitation as you take the diaper away from them. When potty training a child with sensory issues, try to introduce big-kid underwear slowly, possibly wearing it for only minutes at a time at the beginning. Make sure they’re involved in the process of choosing, and accept the possibility that they may be uncomfortable at first with the way it feels while wearing it.
- Avoiding bowel movements for as long as possible: Besides the fact that they may not recognize the signs of needing to have a bowel movement, some children feel as if they’re losing something important when voiding into the toilet, like losing a body part. As silly as it may sound, it is a real concern that needs to be addressed. Try using a potty chair that sits low to the ground, instead of a potty seat that attaches to the toilet. Also, maybe your child doesn’t like the feel of toilet paper when wiping, so avoids going for that reason. If so, try moist wipes instead.
- Fear of public restrooms: Public restrooms can be scary for any child, with their unfamiliar noises, lighting, and methods for flushing. Also, the sound of hand dryers and different people coming and going can be highly over-stimulating for children with sensory processing disorder. Although you can try to avoid unfamiliar restrooms by insisting your child uses the toilet before leaving the house, emergencies happen. One recommendation is to carry sticky notes with you so you can cover the automatic sensors that indicate when it is time to flush the toilet. That way, the child won’t be surprised by the flushing noise. Noise-cancelling headphones can also help.
- Bedwetting at nighttime: Kids who have sensory processing disorder tend to be heavy sleepers, so they often fail to wake up when they have to go. In such instances, successful bladder control is often reliant upon strict adherence to the “no liquids two hours before bedtime” rule. Always be prepared with a spare set of sheets, and never get upset with your child when he or she has an accident.