Cerebral Palsy and Toilet Training Tips
This article has been fact checked by a Board Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. Sources of information for the article are listed at the bottom.
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Toilet training can be tough on any parent, but training a child with cerebral palsy comes with its own unique problems. Rather than focusing on the additional work needed, focus on toilet training as a rewarding process.
IS YOUR CHILD READY FOR POTTY TRAINING?
For some children with cerebral palsy it is easy to discern when they are ready to start toilet training. But in children with severe cases of cerebral palsy, which limit their ability to communicate or maneuver effectively, you will need to keep an eye on a number of signs to help determine readiness. These signs include:
- Can your child stay dry for at least a few hours at a time?
- Does your child get uncomfortable when his/her diaper is wet?
- Can your child discern the difference between being wet and dry?
- Does your child seem interested in using the “potty”?
Children with special needs may exhibit the aforementioned signs, but some have additional limitations that will require a little extra help on your part.
Children with cerebral palsy will have physical limitations that may make toilet training a bit more challenging, but with patience and perseverance, you can help them overcome their limitations. Since cerebral palsy is a disorder that can range from mild to severe, it’s important to talk to your child’s primary health care provider before you begin potty training.
Some children with cerebral palsy will be able to tell you when they need to use the toilet but may need you to help remove clothing or hold them steady each time until they are able to do it themselves. Others may need assistance in maneuvering from a wheelchair or walker to the toilet. Assess the child’s needs for getting to and from the bathroom and help reduce any unnecessary obstacles.
Hearing problems may make toilet training more difficult. Children may have difficulty expressing their needs and communicating when they need to use the restroom.
For the child with hearing deficits, keep teaching as visual as possible. Consider having your child watch you while you use the toilet, purchase picture books of children going through potty training, and teach your child to use hand gestures when they need to go.
Some kids with cerebral palsy have vision problems, which makes visual cues and learning a challenge. Vision problems generally present the most difficulties during the toilet training process. For instance, some children’s visual problems are so severe that they can’t see your actions in order to mimic you.
Teach your child to touch and feel the toilet and its surroundings. Make sure you’re always with your child while going through this process. Be certain that the bathroom area is clear of any objects that can cause accidents, and never leave the child alone while using the toilet.
Speak with your child’s primary health care provider before starting potty training. Consider having a therapist who is experienced in working with children with visual problems to assist you.
PATIENCE IS THE KEY
Along with vision and hearing problems, some children with cerebral palsy may have intellectual disabilities that will make the process of toilet training extremely challenging. Yet, with patience and an understanding of how your child learns, you can still be successful.
Potty training children with intellectual disabilities may take months to a year or more. The process can be easier if you make sure to keep instructions as simple as possible.
For example, instead of explaining how the child’s diaper got wet, you can simply point to the diaper and say “wet,” while keeping a blank expression. Once you change your child, say the word “dry” with a reassuring smile. Again, the process may take longer than you’d like, but eventually, your child will associate a dry diaper with a positive outcome.
Remember to consult your primary health care provider if you have any questions, and consider getting additional assistance if you feel too overwhelmed.