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Before You Potty Train Your Child

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Children with special needs can be notoriously difficult to toilet train, for a host of reasons ranging from medical conditions to developmental delays to sensory insensitivity to stubborn temperament. Before you decide to pick this particular fight, keep in mind the following factors that may make it a losing cause.

Medical factors

If your child seems unable to control his or her bladder, consider that there may be a medical reason. Talk to your pediatrician and rule out any physical causes before undertaking a toilet training regimen.

Developmental factors

If your child’s development is delayed in other areas, there’s no reason to expect it won’t be delayed here, too. Consider your child’s developmental age rather than his or her chronological age in deciding whether the time is right to train.

Sensory factors

Children with sensory integration problems or low muscle tone may legitimately be unable to sense when they need to go. They may not sense when their diaper is wet or be at all bothered by it. Motor planning issues may make it hard for them to figure out what needs to be done and do it in a timely fashion.

Temperamental factors

Children who find even small transitions and conflicts to be stressful may see the challenge of toilet training as overwhelming. This can bring about a cycle of tantruming and explosive behavior. It may not be worth bringing that on if there are other more important issues to be addressed.

Emotional factors

Some children may find toilets intimidating, and the loss of something that comes out of their bodies frightening. The intensity of their parents' desire for them to achieve this milestone may also cause alarm.

Control factors

For the child who craves control, potty training is the ideal battleground, because although the parent may bribe or threaten, Mom or Dad can’t really reach into their bodies and control their bladders and bowels. An area where the child has the upper hand is probably not one you want to tackle if control is an issue.

Peer pressure factors

Not peer pressure on your child -- peer pressure on YOU. The world is full of opinions on when children should be trained. If you are pushing the potty and your child is resisting, ask yourself if you’re doing this because you truly believe he or she is ready, or because your mother/mother-in-law/sibling/co-worker/daycare is nagging at you. Remember that age-old motherly question: If all those people were jumping off a bridge, would you jump, too? And take your child?
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