Toilet training is a subject that many parents think about with nervous anticipation, especially if you have a special needs child. Learning to use the toilet independently is one of the tasks your child will need to master to learn to take care of their own needs, but don't worry, everything doesn't have to go perfectly all at once. Visually impaired children, like other children, can learn to handle going to the bathroom on their own with a little extra help from you.
Most parents don't begin toilet training until their child is around age 2, and most children aren't developmentally able to exercise the control needed until they are at least 18 months old. Still, your everyday routines around nappies and elimination can start helping your child get ready long before that time.
Have a consistent nappy routine so that your baby knows what to expect. You might want to say, "It's time to change your nappy," as you gently pat their bottom. As you move through the steps of changing their nappy, name each step. Using the same steps and the same language each time will help your baby start to anticipate what will happen next.
As your baby nears their first birthday start involving them actively in parts of the diapering routine. For instance, they can help set up the changing mat, get the wipes ready or hand you the talc or cream you use.
Once your baby is walking and is mobile, put a few nappies where they can reach them, and encourage them to get a nappy out when it is time for a change. This will help them begin to recognise when they need to be changed.
Talking about using the toilet is a big part of toilet training. For example, explain to your child what is happening when they are urinating or having a bowel movement in their nappy, and let them know that big boys and girls do that in the toilet. There are many helpful books written for toddlers who are learning about using the toilet.
Once you have introduced these routines, its time to start looking out for indicators that your child is ready. This could be that your child tells you they have a wet or dirty nappy.
Although training will in general be easier if your child has some awareness of when they have a dirty nappy, you might want to give toilet training a try during your child's second or third year. If you try for a few weeks and are not making progress, take a break for a few weeks or months and then try again.
Try to keep in mind that children can vary widely in when they are ready to learn to use the bathroom independently and in how quickly they learn.
Here are a few suggestions to consider when approaching toilet training with your blind or visually impaired child:
Show your child the toilet and its location before you start asking them to sit on it. Let them explore it with his hands and get familiar with it. Explain to your child what the toilet is for, and start to talk about using the toilet, if you haven't already.
Before you begin formal training, try keep track of when your child urinates and has a bowel movement. After about two weeks, you should start to see patterns. For example, your child may tend to urinate about 30 minutes after they drink. When you're ready to begin actual toilet training, use the pattern you've noticed to predict when they may need to use the toilet. For example, plan to put them on the toilet about 25 minutes after they have had a drink. That way, there is a good chance that your child will urinate in the toilet.
Think about buying clothing that is loose fitting and can be easily pulled up and down. My biggest tip would be not to use underwear (especially for boys) for at least 3 months as it feels like a nappy still, and a lot more accidents occur.
While your child is sitting on the toilet you may find that reading or talking about what they are doing is a good way to keep them occupied. This is a good time to pull out those toilet-training picture books or apps. Even if they can't see the pictures, they will enjoy stories about other children who are in the same position! Our two favourite's are Elmo potty time (available here) and Poo goes to Pooland - on youtube.
If your child is afraid of the sound the toilet makes when it is flushed, give them some opportunities to flush it when they are not using it.
Teach your child to wash their hands after they use the toilet. If your child has low vision, use a soap dish or container that contrasts with the sink or countertop so they can easily see it. Keep the soap and towel in the same place all the time so your child can locate them easily.
Perhaps most important, don't become anxious and stressed over toilet training! Your attitude can affect your child's feelings, and your anxiety can lead to a power struggle.
You may encourage your child to want to use the toilet like a "big boy," but putting pressure on a child to perform in a certain way can often produce resistance.
Likewise, punishing a child for accidents like wetting their pants is apt to make the process of toilet training more traumatic and difficult. Toilet training doesn't happen overnight for any child and always requires patience. It's possible that your child may need more practice than some other children their age, but they can learn to be independent in the bathroom with your support and encouragement.
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