I know what you’re thinking! Blimey, if Fi isn’t banging on about Changing Places she’ll find someway to discuss toilets in any way, shape or form haha. Serious though, do not waste money on toiletries for me for Christmas, pun intended!
So amidst the Potty Training chaos our family has catapulted into head first now with my youngest Ava, while she sat watching Peppa Pig in the living room – all naturale…it came to me. I needed to do a blog post on how to handle Potty Training with a Disability, as yet again when I needed such a blog when going through this with my eldest (now 6) there were zero resources for disabled parents attempting to potty train.
Here I hope to share with you some helpful tips and advice on what I adapted to my limitations to make the process go as smoothly as Potty Training can possibly go. It goes without saying, whether you’re a disabled parent or not. Every child is different. Every child advances in different areas of development, at different rates, at different times. Just because your pushy parent mate at Play Group has her little fully dry, day and night by age 18 months, doesn’t mean your child is “behind” because they’ve shown zero interest in the loo.
Though the logistics of potty training isn’t what I’m here to talk about. Let’s get started on adapting Potty Training around your disability!
1. Free the Baby Bums!
Planning ahead for a day you’ll 100% dedicate going full force with potty training is pretty common and makes sense. You need to make sure you’ve got all your potty supplies, you’re not going to need to abandon ship to bundle your little in the car to get here or there for this or that, you need the least distractions like Nana and Grandad popping over. You basically need to lock you and the fam in your house for a weekend and draw the curtains as you’ll have a naked bum flashing your neighbours running circuits around your house.
I like the bare bum method as a disabled parent as it not only let’s them be more in tune with their bodies and feeling of when they need to “go” but in the beginning it will be hit or miss. You will be faced with an abundance of wet pants, puddles on the floor and will need reserve your spoons for accidents while you figure out their toilet ques. The last thing you want is to take an age fighting with their pants on and off and adding to the never ending washing basket. This is what I learnt with my eldest, I kept her in clothes from day 1 of potty training and I was more frustrated at myself, for my inability to get her pants down fast enough that it was causing Her alot of distress because it wasn’t her fault Mummy was too slow. So like many a part, my 1st child was almost a test run and helped me figure out what NOT to do, just as much as what to do (sorry Abbie!) The first few days are the hardest and you don’t want to give them (unintentionally) any added complications like getting clothing removed. Keep it simple, keep them bare bummed, once you feel your little has a good grasp of getting to the potty in good time – THEN start practicing with pants ON.
2. Create a ‘Potty Supply Stash’
This can be anywhere in your home that is practical for You. For me it was the living room, using the top draw of the lamp table. I chose this because it’s easy to access from my wheelchair and when I sit on the couch. The point is to have your ‘Potty Stash’ in a place you spend most of your time with your to be potty graduate so all your supplies; wet wipes, spare knickers and pants, socks, reading material or small toys to occupy on the potty – so you can get to it the fastest as humanly possible. When a tot says “wee, wee!” you’ve got literally seconds to get their bum parked on that potty and you know what? Accidents are inevitable.
As I’m quite in tune with how slow my disability makes me, containing my girls to a single room definitely aided me in the “grab and go” of them to get them on the potty before they went all over the floor. You last thing you want to be doing is having a game of chase around the entire house. They may think that’s fun, but your poor body won’t! So stick to one room for the majority of the time, the first few days. You can contain your little whirlwind by simply shutting the doors (toddlers can find door handles tricky depending on the age your training), or use a safety gate on the doorway of that particular room or I’ve seen other parents use room dividers too to block away from certain parts of a very large room. Obviously make sure you can get in and out though! Ironically sometimes you’ll find in life as a Disabled Parent, if it’s child proof it’s also parent proof…
4. Use your aids to aid Them too
When you feel ready to tackle outings nappy free, you maybe worried about how you’ll manage their toileting needs away from their own potty, in a strange environment on the very big (to them) and very public toilet.
If you’re a wheelchair user, encourage your tot climb on your foot rests and onto the toilet, keep one arm/hand on them to help them feel steady and safe as they teeter on the edge of the toilet bowl and let them use your foot rests too by putting their feet on yours so they’re not hanging – that’ll help make them more comfortable and more likely to succeed out in public.
I’d also encourage you to take them in the disabled toilets, especially as some are shared as a baby changing facility too. That definitely comes in handy as a disabled parent incase you need to strip them fully after an accident. Much easier to lay them on the baby changer than struggling to bend to remove their soiled clothes while they’re standing. Plus you have more room to maneuver in a wheelchair.
DO NOT BE ASHAMED TO USE DISABLED TOILETS FOR YOUR TODDLERS NEEDS IF YOU HAVE AN *INVISIBLE DISABILITY* EITHER. IF ANYBODY DARE COMMENT, MANY DISABLED LOO’S NOW HAVE THE SIGN THAT READS “NOT ALL DISABILITIES ARE VISIBLE” SO DO POINT THIS OUT TO THE IGNORANT PARTY IN AN EFFORT TO EDUCATE THEM 👍
5. Bribery Is Your Friend
Let’s be real for a moment. All parents use bribery! Do not be ashamed to pull out some bribes in toilet training. Doing this with a disability is hard enough without the looming cloud of anxiety over other parents judgement. They do not face the extra obstacles. Good forms of bribery is using a sticker chart, having a bucket of small cheap tat toys they’ve never seen before they can pick from if they sit on the potty/follow directions etc, ipad or TV time etc. Use what you can to win their co-operation and just remember it’s easiest to bargain with them than struggle more. Plus the bribery will fade out as they grasp each step of Potty Training. It’s not like you’ll be giving them a reward for each successful bathroom trip when they’re 16!
Keep in mind despite all the Potty Training methods out there, there’s not 1 stand alone method that’ll work for every child. So if you find your child isn’t taking to potty training, it’s good to take a step back to re-evaluate your little ones readiness or maybe pick a different game plan for example: some parents go cold turkey with no nappies from day 1, whilst others move to pull-ups for naps and bedtime to focus on daytime and night separately. Both methods are fine, like most things to do with parenting – there is no right or wrong choice. Options are there for a reason, pick the one that you feel is best for your family and circumstances.