Completing Potty Training For Preschooler With SPD

by Carly

My 4 1/2 yr old daughter has Sensory Processing Disorder and is starting preschool. She was delayed with potty training... couldn't tell when she had to go and couldn't feel when she went in her pants. We have now overcome those obstacles only to come to another.

She has had balance/vestibular issues... most of them have improved except she cannot balance herself on the potty. She has already fallen in and is afraid of sitting on the potty without a potty seat. Her new teacher will not put her potty seat on the adult toilet... she feels that will not help her get ready for kindergarten. My daughter is self-sufficient with the rest of the toilet training process except for the need of the potty seat. She has a meltdown if the seat does not have one or needs a deep pressure hug.

How can I talk to her teacher? How can I help my daughter increase her confidence on adult toilets? Thank you for your help.

The SPD Helpline Answers...

The first thing I want to make sure is that your daughter is indeed in Occupational Therapy for her SPD. This is the first and most important step in improving these issues, such as the balance and vestibular issues. Please make sure this is being addressed in OT and with a good home program/sensory diet.

I am glad that she has overcome some of the tactile processing issues so she is now more aware of bodily sensations! This is GREAT progress.

Here is what I would suggest you do...

1. Read my extensive newsletter on this very subject... The SPD Companion, Issue #016-- SPD And Potty Training which should give you some helpful hints, tips, and tricks.

2. It WILL indeed be important that the teacher understands the extra help your daughter needs to sit on the toilet and feel safe. It will ONLY be effective this way. So, one thing you can do is have the OT your daughter sees explain this to the teacher and make accommodations based on the OT's recommendations. The teacher does need to allow your daughter a chance to feel comfortable during this important developmental task. Explain how the vestibular/balance issues are difficult for her, listen to the teacher's side, THEN insist accommodations need to be made for her.

3. Ask the teacher to put a stool under your daughter's feet (or at least make one available in the bathroom for your daughter to use)so she can help balance herself better. She should feel more stable this way.

4. Have your daughter wear a weighted neck wrap or backpack when using the toilet to give her calming deep pressure input and give her body more feedback.

5. If there is nothing else that makes your daughter comfortable, then, in my opinion, you will have to insist they let her use a potty seat. THIS is what she needs and modifications should be made for her, poor thing. If the teacher refuses, talk to the center's/school's director for additional problem solving/mediation.

My last comment? Why does a preschool have adult toilets anyway? And, most kindergartens I know of indeed have smaller toilets, so it is not helpful to prepare her for kindergarten by forcing fear into her and making her feel this way about going to the bathroom, when adult toilets don't usually exist in kindergartens. Makes you think, doesn't it?

Talk to the teacher and your OT. I think something could/should be worked out. I hope you can get this resolved. Thanks for submitting this question.


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