7 Tips for Toilet Training ~Let’s Get this Potty Started!


Potty training brings feelings of excitement as kids love doing things on their own and feel like a ‘big boy or girl.’ For children with special needs, learning independence with daily living skills is often difficult. Meeting developmental milestones can be delayed and parents often become worried and frustrated. As a pediatric OT, I’m often asked about tips to help children to use the potty independently.

To help, I added a chapter to my book, The Parent’s Guide to Occupational Therapy for Autism and Special Needs. Many different cultures handle toilet training differently, but ultimately the goal is independence.


Here are my best tips for you in this ‘Out of the POCKET OT‘ toileting post.

  1. DO NOT PRESSURE your child. Punishing for accidents and forcing a child to use the toilet before she’s ready can cause huge delays in skill development. This is a sensitive topic for families and toilet training can move backward if children become frustrated or fearful. Be positive every time, even if your child has an accident.
  2. Look for readiness signs such as:
  • Is your child interested in using the toilet? Does he ask about the potty?
  • Will your child wash her hands (this is critical for proper hygiene)?
  • Your child should not be fearful of the toilet.
  • Does your child indicate or complain when his diaper is wet or soiled? Does he let you know he’s ready for a diaper change?
  • Can your child follow one-step instructions? There are multiple steps involved when toileting. If your child has difficulty following directions, he may not be ready.
  • Does your child help with dressing? Can he pull his pants up and down independently?
  • Will or can your child sit on the toilet or a child-sized potty? With or without clothes on?
  • Can your child remain accident-free for at least two hours during the DAY?

If you can answer yes to most of the questions above, your child is probably ready. If most answers are no, give your child some more time. Remember that your child develops at her own pace and there’s NO right or wrong time.

3) Allow your child to choose his own underwear. Go on a fun and special outing together and keep it positive. Make sure underwear is well-fitting. Try wearing the underwear when practicing toilet training and do not yell if the child soils the underwear. He/she is aware and probably embarrassed about the accident already.

Looking for information in INTEROCEPTION, our eighth sense? Learning about our interoceptive system helps to understand the basics of sensory processing disorder (SPD). Click here for information.

4) Keep special toilet books and toys (such as my new favorite Potty Duck) near the potty so that

Photo from PottyDuck.com

your child associates the toilet with a positive experience. There are many great books on toilet training. Here are my favorites available via Amazon from my affiliates:  P is for Potty (Sesame Street)The Potty Book: for Boys; The Potty Book: for Girls.

5) Make using the toilet a relaxing experience. Try relaxing music, special potty time toys, allow children to sit naked if they want to. Make sure it’s a comfortable temperature in the bathroom. I love to create a spa-like setting and even suggest using special scented soap for washing hands after. Scents that are generally calming include vanilla and lavender.
6) Pick up a copy of the Parent’s Guide to Occupational Therapy for Autism & Special Needs to help answer common ‘Why’ questions. Some include, ‘Why does my child refuse to use the potty?’ ‘What are some common adaptations I can use with my son?’ ‘Why is my child afraid of loud noises?’ Thousands of tips are included for Sensory Processing Disorder, hair/nail cut sensitivity, feeding, motor skills, and more.
7) Be aware of and try to accommodate for sensory processing issues surrounding toileting. A new area we are learning more about is INTEROCEPTION. It’s an area involving the internal system that makes you, you. For instance, our hunger, thirst, urge to use the toilet, heart, breathing are all controlled by our internal body systems. We can be extra or under-responsive in this system in the same way we can in our tactile, proprioceptive, and/or vestibular system. For more information about this, see my earlier blog post here on Sensory Processing Disorder. Try to maintain a balanced ‘sensory activity diet’ with activities at least every two hours while awake. Ideas include: walking like a crab, bear, or other fun animals; wrapping up in Lycra fabric; chewing fruit leathers, dehydrated fruit, nuts, veggies to give ‘heavy work’ to mouth muscles; jumping jacks, or other physical activities. For more ideas, check out our downloadable sensory activity idea cards. Love this blog post? Share it with your friends.

Retained Reflexes Course – Brain & Sensory Foundations

Do you worry that you could be missing something in your approach to therapy? Do you wish you could have a bigger impact in a shorter amount of time? Do you want a step-by-step system that is tested, proven, and supported by evidence?

Cara’s Bestselling Book

Many people struggle with sensory processing difficulties. Regulating emotions, knowing when to eat, drink, go to the toilet, and feeling your breathing and heart rate all depend on our internal awareness.

Related Posts

Close this search box.
© Copyright 2024 The Pocket OT. All rights reserved.
Play Video