All About Toileting

When it comes to children with additional needs, toilet training can understandably get pushed down the list of priorities. Whether it be the misunderstood potential, a lack of readily available support or simply the child showing no clear signs of readiness, the topic altogether is often set aside. This section aims to open up the possibilities of toilet training for families, and equip you with the knowledge and support to make a start.

Parent Hub

Should Toilet Training Be On My Radar?

Not all children, and particularly those with a neurological disability, show signs of readiness, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try - as a parent or carer, you can take the lead.

Getting a child toilet trained isn’t just about building independence and making family life easier. It will also reduce the likelihood of urinary tract infections (UTIs), constipation and the reliance on medications.

Can My Child Toilet Train?

If you're asking yourself this question, you've already made a positive step towards initiating the process.

We can't definitively answer this question for everyone, as each child is unique. However, we can help you by showing how our approach helped Wilson, Peter and Jaxon.

Step 1: Foundations

Understanding the theory and the foundational skills required for toilet training can often be a little complicated and overwhelming, but that's why we are here to help. Let us guide you through the process, step by step.

Put simply, the brain controls the bladder and bowel. Toilet training is the process of teaching the brain exactly how to do that.

Inside the brain, there are four foundational skill sets that all play a role in toileting. Unless all four of these areas are regularly stimulated and strengthened, toilet training will become a lot more difficult.

These foundations can be broken down into four categories: physical, cognitive, sensory and social. 

We have developed a helpful Toileting Skills Checklist, to identify areas for improvement in these core areas. 

Download Toileting Skills Checklist

The activities below will help you to develop these skill sets:

Step 2: Health

Training the brain is essential for successful toilet training, but bladder and bowel health are another key element of the process, as this will impact on your ability to toilet train successfully.

As a general rule, a child should be peeing with dry gaps o around 60-90 minutes. Pee should be the colour of lemonade, rather than the colour of beer - this indicates that they are well hydrated.

For poos, these should be passed around 1-2 times per day or every other day. Poos should be smooth and sausage-like.

You can refer to these fact sheets for more information, or read pages 8-12 of our GottaGo Toileting Guide, which will teach you how to better assess bladder and bowel health. 

Download Our Toilet Training Guide

Step 3: Preparation

Now you know how to toilet train, it's time to decide if it's the best time for you, your child and your family. Here are some things to think about before you begin your toilet training journey.

Is it the right time?

Start at a time where there are limited distractions and stressors in your life, such as moving house, or welcoming a new pet or baby.

Teamwork

Consistency is key, so it's important to get everyone on board. This means ensuring that everyone uses the same language and routines. Speak to your school about getting their support with implementing your toilet training routine.

Awareness

Aim to keep all toileting related activities, such as changing, in the bathroom to help build awareness and make that association as clear as possible. Talk to your child and show them what you're doing to help them understand what the toilet is.

Motivation

We recommend trying to avoid physical rewards - praise is the best motivator. Make a big deal out of the smallest successes, for example, your child sitting on the toilet. We also suggest starting to bring your child to the toilet when you or a sibling go.

Try to avoid physical rewards. Praise is the best motivator. Make a big deal out of even the smallest success for example your child even sitting on the toilet. Start bringing your child to the toilet when you or sibling go.

Establishing A Routine

There are a number of ways to approach toilet training, but the most important thing is to be consistent and establish a routine. Our GottaGo Toilet Training Guide outlines a number of methods which might work for you. 

Download Our Toilet Training Guide

You might have noticed us referencing our Toilet Training Guide in our advice - this guide was specially tailored by our experienced clinical team to accompany the Firefly GottaGo and is packed full of useful advice that will support and motivate you and your child on your toilet training journey.

Download Guide

Step 4: Getting Started

If you've created good foundations and made the necessary preparations, it's time to get started. Here are some more tips to help you on your way.

Lose the nappy!

It's a scary thought, but it needs to be done. Nappies absorb wetness and keep children comfortable, which disrupts their sensory interpretation of going to the toilet, as well as wanting to go in a more comfortable place.

You can still use nappies at night, whilst you focus on toilet training during the day.

Build Tolerance

Start slowly and don’t expect results to happen overnight. Gradually build up sitting tolerance over time, and don’t forget to praise them for it.

Page 32 of our Toilet Training Guide will provide some advice on motivating your child for sitting on the toilet for longer, as well as helping them to pass poo.

Making Progress

Our experience has taught us that the fastest and most effective way to toilet train is to catch your child in the act of going. You can use predictive training techniques as well and bringing their attention to the act of going by engaging their senses of seeing, hearing, feeling and smelling all of the sensations.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is toilet training achievable?

    For many people, yes. However it's important to manage your expectations of what success looks like to you. Every child is different, and therefore each child will have a different journey and outcome. For some people, the goal is to use the toilet for poos only, and for others it might be more or less than that.

  • My child isn't showing signs of readiness - what should I do?

    It's very common for children not to show readiness for toilet training. A disability can affect this in many ways, such as disrupting sensory process, cognitive functioning or motor control. Nappies are also great at making children feel minimal sensations. If your child doesn't show signs of readiness, you can take the lead and see where it takes you. You won't know until you try.

  • Is it too late to try?

    Not at all! You can begin toilet training at any age.

  • How long can I expect toilet training to take?

    Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer to this question. A consistent and structured approach to toilet training will ultimately speed up the process, but be prepared to take a break if you feel things aren't working, or if your circumstances should change. The process is different for everyone. 

  • What can I do about constipation?

    Constipation can be caused by a number of factors, such as diet, limited mobility and medication. Simple strategies to alleviate constipation including increasing fluids, increasing activity or adding more fibrous foods to their diet.

    View Our Bladder & Bowel Heath Links

  • Can I get any professional support to help me?

    Your occupational therapist, paediatrician or health visitor might be able to help or point you in the right direction. There are also a wide variety of resources and charitable organisations online that provide helpful resources.

    Check Out Our Recommended Resources

  • My child is non-verbal. Can they still toilet train?

    Yes, most definitely. Click below to read more about how Jaxon did this successfully.

    Read Jaxon's Story

  • My child has postural difficulties, how will this affect toilet training?

    It's common to assume that postural difficulties or an inability to sit on the toilet will mean that a child is unable to toilet train.

    This is false. Your child will likely require an adaptive toilet seat of some sort. Speak to your occupational therapist about this, or check out our GottaGo toilet seat, which might be a good place to start.

    View GottaGo

Our Family, Our Story: Shannon & Jaxon

Shannon Cummings is the first in our new series of parent bloggers, who has shared her family experience of 6 year-old Jaxon's toileting journey.

Jax was born with a condition called NAIT (neonatal alloimune thrombocytopenia) which contributed to him having a low platelet count, discovered when he was only 13 hours old. As a result of this, he had 2 strokes before or during birth leading to him having a large cyst on the left side of his brain. Jaxon is also diagnosed with cerebral palsy, severally sight impaired, sensory processing difficulties and, most recently, epilepsy.

Read their story at the link below.

Read Jaxon's Story

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