Sitting on his potty chair for the 10th time today, Matthew was successful with a pee potty. Unfortunately, he wasn't sitting quite right so pee shot out over the front guard of the potty chair and soaked my pants since I was sitting in front of him. But I praised him for going. I applauded his effort. That was more important than my wet pants.
He understands that going in the potty is expected and loves the praise he gets for successfully using the potty. He even clapped for himself as he was peeing. Yes, it's a proud moment for us all.
We started introducing Matthew to the potty in August last year. He was showing an interest in the toilet, imitating Bill or I in the bathroom. He was willing to sit on his potty chair at bathtime and bedtime.
He knows the sign for potty. He can also verbalize "potty." However, without recognizing the urge to go yet, he doesn't communicate that he wants to or needs to use the potty.
Generally, sensory awareness is low in individuals with Down syndrome. This seems to be true for Matthew as he doesn't seem to sense the urge. He is also indifferent to being wet or having a poopy diaper. So in this regard, perhaps he isn't completely ready but we wanted to start the process anyway because of his interest.
Potty Strategies & Ideas
During the Christmas break, we ramped up our potty training efforts, taking him to the potty (roughly) every hour. He now wears pull-ups during the day, even to school. So he uses the potty at school too even if it wasn't originally in our IEP (Individualized Education Plan). He wears a diaper at naptime and bedtime.
However, with the hourly schedule, we seemed to be missing the window 90% of the time. We were either 3 minutes too late or 3 minutes too early. So last week, we decided to take him to the potty every 30 minutes when he's home and offering water or juice as often as possible. Yes, it's a tedious process but we've learned to incorporate it into our day by keeping an eye on the clock or setting a "potty alarm." It certainly isn't easy when I have 8-month old Elizabeth to tend to as well. But the more practice he gets, the more chances for more successes. Each success is a little baby step to being potty trained.
An idea from another mom is to put Matthew in underwear under the pull-up so he'll feel that he's wet since pull-ups tend to wick moisture away from the skin. I'll try it for the sake of trying it but I don't have high hopes that it will work for someone who doesn't seem to mind playing in wet pants.
I also thought of purchasing the "Peter Potty" which is a standing toddler urinal made just for boys. My sister-in-law recommended it as it worked for slowly transitioning her son out of diapers. The Peter Potty purchase has not been made. Amazon.com is out of stock and we haven't decided if we wanted to try this. We'll continue to use the Baby Bjorn Potty Chair for now.
Another thing I tried was putting Matthew on the toilet. But he was not comfortable on it and seemed very unsteady even with me holding him since his feet couldn't reach the floor.
Standing to pee in the toilet isn't an option for him yet either since he is short. Standing on a stool and using toilet targets is another idea I've quietly entertained but haven't tried. He'll need more stability getting up on a stool and standing on it without holding on to anything and I'm afraid it might turn into a messy game, which would involve me mopping the bathroom floor multiple times a day.
A Learning Process
Matthew is learning the routine: use the potty, wash hands and dry hands. He is learning to pull his pants down and pants up, which requires finger and hand strength and coordination. He still needs help with this. He usually falls forward when pulling his pants up. He is learning that he needs to keep his balance when pulling his pants up.
It's the baby steps that matter to us. Some days we take a few steps forward. Some days we take a few steps back.
I've been tracking the number of successes and number of times he sits on the potty using my newest iPhone app "ListMaster." More searching led me to more iPhone apps specifically for potty training utilizing reward systems. However, Matthew doesn't yet understand cumulative reward systems so accumulating several stars to earn a treat or a toy will not work for us right now. So I'll stick to the chart I created on ListMaster for now. As you can see, our batting average for success is currently pretty low.
We're taking it a day at a time. Having him potty trained by the time he goes to Kindergarten would be ideal. Age 5 is the earliest that kids start Kindergarten here. Because his birthday is in October, which is past the beginning of the schoolyear (August), he will be going to Kindergarten a few months before he turns 6. So we have time. But if that does not happen, then we'll just have to rethink things.
Asking other moms in the DS community, it seems kids with Down syndrome potty trained at age 5 - 7 on average, with a few trained as early as 3 and a few as late as 8 to 11. Some did it in a week. Some took a few years.
Every child is different though. Maybe Matthew will be potty trained by his 4th birthday. Or maybe Matthew won't be completely potty trained until he's 5 or older. But right now, with his interest, cooperation and willingness (very important!), we feel it is certainly worth the effort to try. It's another little step toward independence.
Stopping and trying again later is also certainly an option.
Your Experiences, Ideas and Strategies
Please share potty training ideas and what worked for you by leaving a comment. I would love to hear them and many parents who read this blog would find it helpful too. Thanks!