Potty Training??

I apologize if I have overlooked information on potty training. I was wondering if you had any suggestions on getting a SPD child to go in the potty??

My son is almost 3 1/2 and attending preschool. At school, he will usually go in the urinal with the other boys. At home, he rarely will go in the big or little potty - or even the little boy urinal I just bought. He will sometimes refuse underwear (very soft!) and always refuses pull-ups. Most often, he wants his "diaper".

Somedays, he seems so sensitive that he will request a "diaper change" after just peeing once. Other days, he will refuse all diaper changes and go with an extremely full, wet diaper until it practically falls off him.

It feels like we've tried everything (rewards, bribes, timer, ignoring, peer-pressure, etc.) When we were using the timer, I missed the right time by just a few seconds. The look on his face as he was peeing in his underwear was a look of...... confusion... Like, he didn't understand what that feeling was. (This was after a rather successful day of peeing in the potty.)

I don't know what to try next...!
Thank you!

The SPD Help Line Answers...

Hi Carissa,

You are right on in your description of what is going on with your son... the truth is, he doesn't feel the sensations he needs to feel due to his SPD. There will indeed be days when he feels too much, and other days when he feels too little. This is not uncommon and the fluctuation is one of the "hallmarks" of this disorder. So, first... good job understanding what is REALLY going on with him! He truly does not feel what he needs to feel. And, the poor kiddo, it surprises and frustrates him as much as (or probably more!) than you. He is confused, as is expected with his issues regarding regulation, discrimination, modulation, and his interoceptive sense.

If he is receiving some good OT regarding these issues with an experience OT in regards to SI theories and treatment, know this WILL get better! The trick will be using these therapies and being very consistent with them. Also, finding something, anything, any tiny little feeling that he may experience or have regarding when he might have to go, while he is going, or right after he has gone. He is young, relatively speaking, so some things he may not recognize or be able to express, but see if you can pick anything up and help him identify it as/when it happens.

Another idea? Since you said he goes to the urinals with the other boys in preschool... does he have any male figures around him at home? Dad? Brothers? That can go with him and "model" what to do, and talk about the "feelings" of before, during and after, to help him get a sense of it all? (Sorry to be so "graphic") Sometimes this can help.

You're not alone in your experience and struggles you are having with him (or, shall I say... that he is having)! Traditional potty training does not usually work for our SPD kiddos with such difficulties with the interoceptive sense. My guess is he additionally has issues with sleep, hunger, thirst, being hot or cold, etc.? Is this the case? Any of those issues too?

Talk to your OT about any further techniques you can use. I am proud of you for clueing into this and trying all the things you have. You are right on target for his particular needs. Know that it will come, hopefully before his self-esteem suffers too much. You can help that by helping him understand what he is feeling or not feeling, why his body is doing the things it is or not doing, letting him know it is ok and expected, helping him understand it is his BODY doing this, not him. Just keep those messages loud and clear for him and validate his troubles as they relate to his SPD, at his level. Does that make sense?

Here are the resources I have available so far on my site...

The SPD Companion, Issue #016-- SPD And Potty Training.

Resources to go with the above newsletter... SPD and Potty Training.

Some have also used Therapeutic Listening to help address regulation and interoceptive issues. Perhaps this would help as well?

SPD Help Line Submission: The Interoceptive Sense.

SPD Help Line Submission: Completing Potty Training For Preschooler With SPD

Also, The Wilbarger Brushing Protocol? Have you tried this yet? This is often helpful for our SPD kiddos who are having difficulties such as your son's.

Read the above suggested resources over, then let me know if we can help further, ok?

Also, know that there are MANY, MANY parents in our online SPD support group, AllAboutKids, that have gone through the same experiences and can offer additional support and suggestions. If you are not already a member, it might be helpful to join!!

I am impressed you "get him". How his SPD is affecting his inability to feel what he needs to feel. This, in itself, will bring about positive changes. Slowly, things will get better through OT!

Does anyone else have any ideas for Carissa? Have YOU been through similar experiences? What helped your child? Let her know via the comment box below!

Take good care.
Michele Mitchell

Comments for Potty Training??

Average Rating starstarstarstarstar

Click here to add your own comments

Dec 19, 2007
What worked for me...
by: Anonymous

I feel your pain!!! My son was nearing 3 1/2 when I finally got him trained. The technique I used was not really a "technique" and maybe would even be frowned on, but it worked, so I'll share. I started, at times when I felt he may need to go, taking him to the bathroom and basically just making him sit there until some pee came out. It was sometimes awful, sometimes I just had to hold him while he sat there, and sometimes we were in the bathroom for 30 minutes until something came out. But I think it helped him to recognize the feeling. None of the other "tricks" worked for me either. But a few days of this and then when I'd take him in, he'd just pee so we wouldn't have to sit in there all night. And then after around a month, he started telling me when he needed to go, and then after another maybe 2 months, I stopped having to go in and help him. He still prefers to sit even though the other little boys stand, but I'm sure you'd agree that who cares as long as we aren't in diapers anymore!

Oh, and by the way, my son used the potty at school as well. That's so frustrating when they tell you to start putting him in underwear "because he's fine when he's here". Of course, when I put him in underwear, he had an accident every day. So I put him back in pull ups and started holding him on the pot every day! Like I said, it sounds sort of cruel, and it isn't fun.... but I think it really did help him to recognize the sensations associated with going to the bathroom. Also, I have the kind of potty seat that has handles on either side... if that's not what you have, you might try and it may make him feel more secure to have something to hold onto. The potties at their schools are so little and I think they prefer them to the big potty at home and that's part of the problem as well.

Good luck! You will both survive, I promise.

Nov 29, 2007
Potty Training...I know!!!
by: Laura

Hi Carissa,

My son is three and a half years old as well. He is having the same exact troubles with potty training as your son. His OT has started the Therapeutic Listening with him. The "Ease CD's" have actually helped him. For about a week now he has only had about three accidents and has actually pulled the potty over and gone by himself!

I also tried the feel and learn diapers to hopefully help him learn the cues his body was telling him to go. I really believe that it is the Therapeutic Listening that is helping him. Also... from what I hear from other parents (sorry to be so graphic) going #2 is a challenge this.... has been a piece of cake for him I think due to the Listening Therapy!

Hope this helps,

Michele Mitchell comments...

You are right on Laura!! Thanks for your input. I too know many parents who have reported positive potty training results with Therapeutic Listening... especially, the "Ease CD's" that you spoke of. Keep up the good work!!

Nov 03, 2007
Thank you
by: Anonymous

I am so glad I found this site. It is a great resource. Thank you for your time and energy. God bless you both.

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to SPD And Potty Training.