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Toilet training children with special needs

Thu 08, Dec 2016

Adelaide-based occupational therapist and toilet training consultant Debbie Atkins provides tips for toilet training children and young people with a developmental disability.

Learning to use the toilet is an important developmental skill for all children. For some children and young people with a developmental disability, there are often additional challenges, and toilet training can become a very long and frustrating process. However, with perseverance and consistency many of these children can become clean and dry. A developmental disability should not become a barrier to learning toileting skills.

Children with special needs may not show clear signs of readiness and it can be difficult to know where to begin. It can also be very difficult to incorporate toilet training into a busy family schedule.

The best approach for successful toilet training is to allow time, and use tailored teaching strategies alongside a consistent daily routine.
Seeking advice from health professionals who have experience with toilet training is highly recommended. These health professionals may include a doctor, continence nurse advisor, occupational therapist, psychologist and physiotherapist.

But why is toilet training important? There are clear benefits for your child being clean and dry, including improved skin hygiene and physical comfort, a sense of independence and personal responsibility, and a wider social acceptability.

There are also benefits for your family with the reduced burden of managing the continence needs of a growing child. But mostly, having a continent child will give your family greater opportunities to travel and engage in a wider variety of community activities.

Toilet training is not easy and can be very time consuming, but learning to use the toilet is a worthwhile developmental opportunity for your child that should not be delayed. So seek professional advice and collaborate with your child’s other care providers and educators. But most importantly, be positive and gradually follow realistic toilet training goals for your child. 
A video offering practical toileting tips for children living with a disability is available on the Continence Foundation’s website addressing the signs of bedwetting, recommendations on diet and fluids and setting up an individualised toileting routine for your child.

For additional information contact the free National Continence Helpline 1800 33 00 66, which is staffed by continence nurse advisors, providing information and advice on continence management, funding schemes, products and local services.

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