Potty Training Tips : Parental Guidance On Basics For Children With Special Needs & Developmental Delays

Potty training is one of the most difficult tasks especially for parents with special needs children. Research shows that the children who are not potty trained by the age of 5 tend to start losing bladder control making this training a crucial part of child's development and training.

Some of the unique challenges that these parents face with their kids are primarily attributed to :

  • Sensory Sensitivities
  • Communication Challenges
  • Lack of Self Confidence
  • Short Attention Span

Parents can deploy strategies making it fun-based learning. Following are the 3 unique and proven strategies in this direction which have worked for 8 out of 10 children with Autism :

  1. Visual Board - A picture is worth a thousand words - train and equip the child with step by step visuals
  2. Task Management - Guide the child by giving exact steps to ensure that the child is not confused
  3. Positive Reinforcements - Reward your child creating a sense of accomplishment and motivation

Following a step-by-step approach helps in breaking down the problem both from parents and child's perspective. Following are some of steps and tips that can help in the same :-

  1. Due Diligence
    • Parents should do their homework before commencing this training.
    • For a week, observe the child's loo and potty timings.
    • Prepare a chart for the same.
    • This will help you to guide the child to the restroom before it's time for it
  2. Focus on Patterns
    • We will focus on the patterns that parents should observe before they start potty training
    • Observe expressions that the child is using to indicate the need for relieving e.g if it's loo time, they might hold their pants or jump around. When it's potty time, they might make faces or produce sounds
    • Observe it for a week
  3. Building Interest in a fun play way
    • Start with their visit to the washroom
    • Start with teaching them to wash hands
    • For washing hands, use liquid soap as the pump and foam excites them making it a fun way of learning
  4. Visual Board
    • Use visual cards to help the child learn the steps
    • Ask your child to arrange these in the correct order
    • This will help them to remember it
    • Place the cards next to the potty seat in the correct order
  5. Mock Drill
    • You can also create a mock drill.
    • After arranging the cards in the right order, let them enact each step.
    • This way they will register the process better
  6. Usage of Single Word
    • Do not use too many different words like toilet, potty, restroom, relieving etc
    • Stick to one word for loo and potty to create recognition and association in child's mind
  7. Consistency
    • Maintain consistency ins schedule
    • Set alarms for the same as per your child's schedule and timings
  8. Patience is the key
    • Don't lose patience
    • Give the child adequate time as per his or her learning pace
  9. Positive Reinforcements
    • Reward your child creating a sense of accomplishment and motivation


  • Keep the child hydrated
  • Avoid pants with buttons and Zips
  • Use pants with elastics for easy pull down and pull up
  • Give your child fibre rich diet of fruits and vegetables
  • Give it some time, don't get impatient
  • In case, it's taking time, take a break for a few days and re-start afresh.