Potty training with sensory issues - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 5 Old 09-23-2013, 01:43 PM - Thread Starter
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When my son was 22 months, he decided he wanted to learn to use the potty. I was assuming that he wouldn't potty learn til closer to 3 or maybe even 4, because he is showing signs of sensory processing disorder and has speech delays, so we didn't expect him to start on the earlier side of things, but we went with it.


He started out GREAT. I took his pants off, showed him how to sit on the little potty, he kept going over to it and sitting and peeing in it, and doing the happy dance when he did, etc. He even pooped in it like it was no big deal.


Fast forward 2 months and he is still having TONS of accidents. I have to tell him when to go every 20-30 minutes (sometimes we go longer) and he is starting to fight back and not want to. But only occasionally will he go on his own. He is at the point now that when he needs to have a bowel movement and is not wearing pants, he may go himself, but usually I can smell that he needs to go and tell him to go sit. If there is anything remotely fun/interesting happening, forget it -- he doesn't go on his own and will often have an accident and not even say anything about it.


To make things worse, he is going to play school 2 mornings/week, and they were supposed to be helping him learn, but all they do is have him sit maybe every hour and then change him when he has an accident. He is there for 3 hours at a time, and can wet through 4 pairs of shorts in that time.


He does not wear underwear or pull-ups; he goes commando. Part of that is to make it easier for him to do it himself (he still has trouble pulling his pants up and down -- he can do it, but chooses to "need help" most of the time). And part of that is b/c when I had him try on underwear, he complained they were too tight, even though they were too big and therefore loose on him.


I don't want to keep pushing him if he's not actually ready, but I also don't want to go back to diapers. I have seen him stop, look down at his penis, and spread his legs a bit when he feels the pee coming, and I catch him and have him sit on the potty. Or he'll have a small accident, stop himself and sit on the potty to finish. But lately he's just been seemingly oblivious to it all and having bigger accidents.


How can I help him learn to feel when he needs to go, and help him learn to deal with his pants so he feels empowered to do it himself?  I know he can do it, b/c he has done it before, so it's getting frustrating that he's struggling now. I want to help him through this but I don't know how. Doctors and OT have no suggestions on how to help him potty train.

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#2 of 5 Old 09-24-2013, 09:40 AM
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I am going to be pretty blunt here - please forgive me in advance!


It sounds like the problem is that this has become your project, not his. I would guess that his original interest was that it was new and interesting - now it is a bore, interrupting activities that are more fun, getting nagged, etc. I would hate to be reminded every 20-30 minutes - wouldn't you? I would drop the subject. Let him come back to it when HE wants. Kids at school, icky smells and feelings, wanting to be more grown up - something will motivate him. Someday. Before he is 20, I promise! Let it be his responsibility, not yours.


I would simply, without any shame or fanfare, go back to diapers. Pull-ups are perfect if you use disposables, maybe "training pants" if you do cloth. Even add an insert if needed for absorbancy. And some sort of water proof cover. Explain matter-of-factly that he is welcome to use the potty any time he wants, but until he does it regularly, he needs diapers to keep the house and his clothes clean. Maybe get rid of the "potty" and let him use the regular toilet if he wants.


Truly, I would just drop it. Even if he sometimes has the muscular control, he is showing you that he is not ready.

Rhu - mother,grandmother,daughter,sister,friend-foster,adoptive,and biological;not necessarily in that order. Some of it's magic, some of it's tragic, but I had a good life all the way (Jimmy Buffet)

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#3 of 5 Old 09-24-2013, 12:49 PM - Thread Starter
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Thank you. I was wondering how he could possibly be ready. He's sort of in a limbo in between.


I typed out a long response that I realized was pretty redundant, and in trying to find the words I needed I realized that the situation is really that he only has accidents at home and at school. This morning we went to the community garden and he told me he needed to go. We had to walk a little way to the outhouse and he made it there without having an accident at all. (Usually at home he will feel the pee come a little bit and be able to stop it enough to get to the potty, except for lately he hasn't been bothering sometimes.) We go to the store, his therapy/doctor appointments, the library, out to dinner, all without a single accident ever, unless he's had a huge amount to drink. Granted, I keep the potty in the car and he goes before we go inside anyplace and when we come out if we've been awhile. But he made it through a 45-minute gymnastics class with no potty breaks the other day.


I admit, I don't want to go back to diapers. And I do know that it's not about me. But he complains about having diapers on (anything touching him there is "too tight") and takes them off whenever he can. So I'm not sure how I would even get him to wear diapers again. He does wear them at night, but if I leave him in a T-shirt instead of a onesie, he will take it off and pee in his crib. So it feels like I need to keep him out of diapers, but I don't know how to help him over this hurdle. Trainers seem like a good step except that he won't wear underwear b/c it's "too tight" too. I can't imagine trainers being tolerable for him.

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#4 of 5 Old 09-26-2013, 12:51 PM
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As the mom of a 4.5 year old "almost" potty trained (he still has accidents whenever he has anything on his bottom), I think you should just let things be - cut back on any pressure, maybe stop really talking about it.  The accidents are annoying, but I think him having accidents and being able to feel it is a good thing.  I bet he will eventually just get sick of having to change all the time.  At least that's what we are doing. 


That he doesn't have accidents some places suggests that he is just going to have to get to the point where he doesn't want to have an accident at school or home as well.  Could be a while...


Just my thoughts as a totally non-expert mama that's tried a LOT of things with my speech delayed son. 

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#5 of 5 Old 09-28-2013, 07:35 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks. I think this is pretty much where we are and where we'll be for awhile. I talked to his OT about it and she is looking into more specific therapies that might help the sensory side of things, but she said we should absolutely NOT go back to diapers. I was surprised she said that, but she was sure that wouldn't be the right course at this point.


He did manage to stay dry at school one day last week when the teacher was on him about using the potty on a regular basis. I'm hoping you're right, that he will realize he needs to stay dry EVERYWHERE, not just on car errands. I did notice he's been holding it more, is drier after naps and pees more each time he goes. And then today, not so much -- lots of frequent dribbles and couple of minor accidents. Weird.

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