Monday, January 24, 2011

Potty Training

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.

Readiness signs
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.

Peter PottyI 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. 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.

ListMaster iPhone appPotty Tracking
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.

No Deadline
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!

Related posts:
Go Potty
Potty Training

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Giggling Siblings

Matthew can turn doorknobs. He's been able to do so since he turned 3 last year. Closed doors are not barriers to him in our house anymore.

There were a couple of times when he went into Elizabeth's room and woke her up from her nap, much to my annoyance. But sometimes he goes in there only when he hears her over the baby monitor.

Yesterday, he heard her babbling on the baby monitor. She had just woken up from a nap. "Oh, she's up," I said. He immediately ran to her room to go get her. I followed him with my Mommy spycam and captured the giggling siblings on our Flip video camera.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Book Review: Kellie's Book

Kellie's Book
If I had a coffee table in the living room, this would be one of the books on it. But until the kids are grown up, books like this will sit high on a shelf to save them from being torn or used as a coloring book.

The book is colorful and well done. Kellie's writing style is simple yet profoundly honest in portraying how family, love, passions and interests, a sense of accomplishment, and acceptance are truly important in life, at least for Kellie Greenwald and for many people, including myself. All the drawings are her own. Kellie was born in 1978. She also wrote about how hard she worked on this book. I believe her! From what I've learned from my sister-in-law's experience, getting published isn't a leisurely stroll in the park. There are many details to consider: layout, storyline, artwork, and so on.

This is the third book that I have found that is authored by an individual with Down syndrome. The other two are "I Just Am" by Tom Lambke and Bryan Lambke and "Count Us In: Growing Up With Down Syndrome" by Jason Kingsley and Mitchell Levitz, which I am still currently reading.

A keepsake. A statement. A wonderful effort for advocating abilities of people with Down syndrome. The book also includes several photos of Kellie with family and friends as well as a mini biography about Kellie.

Related posts:
Book Review: I Just Am

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Toy Review Tuesday: My Pal Violet (Leapfrog)

Violet was actually a gift for Elizabeth from friends. She's soft, cuddly and programmable with a USB cable link to the computer - definitely a stuffed toy of the 21st century. None of my stuffed animals were this cool when I was a kid.

My Pal VioletThe software is free and downloadable from the leapfrog website. Linking with the USB cable allows songs, a favorite animal, a favorite color, a favorite food, and the child's name to be downloaded to the toy. Violet then incorporates the name, animal, color and food into the songs she sings. The songs are cute and catchy and appeals to Matthew so much that Violet has become one of his favorite toys. So I let him play with the purple dog while Elizabeth still doesn't mind sharing. Violet also asks for hugs and Matthew is more than happy to comply.

There are so many downloadable choices - 149 food items, 98 animals, 10 colors, 19 daytime songs, and 15 lullabies. The software also has printable MyPal adoption certificates, songs and coloring pages.

I change up the animal, color, and food every few days to keep it interesting. In a way, it helps Matthew's listening skills and speech. He tries to sing along and say whatever food, animal, name (Elizabeth or Matthew), and color that Violet says.

Two thumbs up for this toy!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Terrible 2's or 3's?

big bossThe 3-year old is like a 2-year old on steroids - testing boundaries and the limits of my patience (or lack thereof). But perhaps what we're experiencing is the peak of the typical terrible 2's. Perhaps the delay in his emotional development has delayed the onset of full-blown terrible 2 mode even if he is 3. And historically, Matthew lingers in a developmental phase or milestone or stage for a little longer than his typical peer. That being said, we enjoy the successes longer but we also muddle through the struggles longer.

Some say 3 is a fun age. I say parenting 3-year old Matthew makes parenting 2-year old Matthew seem like a semi-relaxing walk in the park. At age 2, Matthew certainly had his fair share of tantrums - refusing to follow directions, dropping to the ground and slipping back down between my arms whenever I tried to pick him up, throwing food on the floor, the list goes on.

With his hands behind his back, Matthew casually walks between Bill and I. He leaves a short trail of crayons behind him, discriminately dropping them behind him. Then he looks at us so innocently, as if thinking, "They're not going to notice. Nothing to see here." We find that he runs experiments like this sometimes, testing what he can get away with. This particular experiment failed as we asked him to pick up his crayons and put them in their box.

Most of the time, he's an angel to his sister. But sometimes the little horns come out. He'll bop Elizabeth on the head or give her a little push or take a toy from her. More experiments - most of which he served a 3-minute time-out or offered Elizabeth a "sowwy" and hug (with prompting).

He calmly sits in a chair or corner for the duration of the time-out but its lesson is lost. To him, there is no connection between quietly sitting alone for 3 minutes as a consequence for shoving his sister. Redirection seems to work better but the timing to redirect him has to be perfect.

We praise him for many good behaviors and actions we would like him to repeat. We try to make sure the positives far outweigh the negatives. It's quite a challenge! "NO" is a common utterance in our house, as it is in the world. We can't and won't shield him from the word "NO." Matthew says "NO" to brushing teeth. I say "NO" to throwing toys down the stairs. Matthew says "NO" to eating. I say "NO" to squeezing the juice box so the contents spill all over the floor. "NO" to pulling the cat's fur or tail. "NO" to taking toys away from Elizabeth. "NO" to pouring milk on the carpet. "NO!"

I hang on by a thread of patience as I sternly tell Matthew "NO!" for deliberately pouring his milk on the floor. A swat on the bottom seems useless as he laughs in my face. He swats my head, not playfully, as I kneel on the floor next to him to clean up the spilled milk. A 3-minute time-out doesn't seem to do much except interrupt mealtime. And I guess it refocuses him enough to stop being ornery for a few minutes. He says "sowwy" when prompted.

And when I'm at the end of my rope wondering when we might "graduate" from this terrible 2 or 3 stage, the little stinker gives me a hug and a kiss.

He is certainly more alike other kids than different. Like other kids, he's going through the stage where he constantly experiments with behaviors and tests boundaries. He's studying our reactions and learning to push our buttons.

One difference is that he may have started this stage a little later than other kids his age. It also takes more repetition for him to learn a series of action-reaction-consequence. The repetition actually makes it hard for me to be consistent with disciplining. There are many variables in play such as the circumstance, my mood, his mood, Elizabeth's mood.

For instance, pouring his milk on the floor at lunch would mean a stern "NO" from me and he would need to help me clean it up with paper towels. With the best set of variables, he and I will clean up the milk with no fuss, no tantrums. But other times, he will throw the paper towel or refuse to clean up the mess or I'd be tired and short-tempered or Elizabeth is fussing and needs her milk or something to eat or help with a toy. Then it gets hard to deal with making Matthew clean up the mess. Sometimes it's easier to just cry over spilled milk and clean it up myself.

So terrible 2's? Terrorizing 3's? Whatever it's called, it's what kids do. And being the determined, little achiever that he is, Matthew certainly does his job very well.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Toy Review Tuesday: Busy Ball Choo Choo

Playskool Busy Ball Choo Choo
One of the very first cause and effect toys Matthew ever owned when he was a few months old was the Busy Ball Choo Choo by Playskool. Three plastic balls cycle through the train when activated with the big yellow button on top of the train. Once Matthew could sit with support, he enjoyed watching the balls disappear into the train and reappear at the top. A lever on one side of the train also allows the balls to pop out the back instead of cycling through but we hardly used that feature just because Matthew found it uninteresting.

The train can also be set to move forward while the balls cycle through. But it moved so slowly on our berber carpet and Matthew never pursued it so we kept it stationary.

We also used this toy to learn "putting in". The balls are a perfect size for little hands. And since they are light and air-filled plastic balls, they were perfect for Matthew to grab even with low muscle tone.

Elizabeth has been enjoying this toy too once she could sit with support. Like Matthew, she also enjoys watching the balls cycle through and then she grabs them as soon as they pop out on top.

chewing on the choo choo

The music is loud and the train is without volume control but I don't consider it terribly annoying. With all the other toys we have, toy music and sound effects just become a part of our daily lives, blending in with the sound of the dishwasher running or the washing machine or the vacuum cleaner.

I would say that the toy is probably expensive for what it is (currently retailing on for $30) but it was one of Matthew's first Christmas presents and now, both kids are putting a lot of playtime into it so we're not complaining at all.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Loose Change

giant beer bottle coin bank
How do I teach my 3-year old the value of money? I don't. Not yet anyway.

But I can use loose change for an easy fine motor activity and counting coins. My latest home counting lesson with Matthew is counting to 20. So we lay up to 20 coins on a baking tray or any hard flat surface and count them.

counting coins

coin pick-up

Next, we pull out Bill's favorite coin bank and Matthew picks up the coins from the tray and drops them into the bank.

We'll learn to count money and understanding the value of money when he's older.
coin deposit

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Dentist and the Alligator

dental chairI've never taken Matthew to the dentist. That task has been delegated to Bill since it would be easier for him to hold Matthew in the dental chair than it would be for me. His first appointment was 6 months ago.

a chat with the dentist

The 2nd visit to the dentist for a routine check went fairly well. He was calm when in the waiting area. But Bill needed to sit in the dental chair with him and hold him still. The dentist looked in Matthew's mouth while he screamed in protest. The screaming stopped shortly after the dentist was done checking his teeth. And I think he forgave the dentist when she gave him a giant toothbrush and toothy alligator to play with. He enjoyed using the giant brush so much that he even tried to brush Bill's teeth with it.

brushing the alligator's teeth

toothy alligator

picture of teethThe good news is he has zero cavities! I'm hoping Matthew inherited Bill's genes for good teeth and not mine. I had lots of cavities while growing up while Bill is 30+ and he has not had a single cavity in his life. Bill drinks soda everyday, a few times a day. Unbelievable but true (and so not fair)!

As Matthew gets older and his language skills increase, I foresee us not needing to hold him down at the dentist anymore. But that will probably be several years from now when he can understand why it is important to see the dentist.

Until then, I'm thinking of ways to help him cope. I've put together some pictures from his recent dental appointment to show Matthew using an iPhone app called "Stories2Learn" which allows me to create short stories using my own pictures and words and record my own voice. Since he's a visual learner, maybe this will help him cope better at his next visit to the dentist. Showing him pictures of himself at school to help him adjust to preschool seemed to work so maybe it will work for the dentist too. Or maybe it won't make a difference. But it doesn't hurt to try and is certainly worth the effort.

a chat with the dentist

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Toy Review Tuesday: Mailbox (Little Tikes)

Little Tikes MailboxMatthew's interest in checking our mailbox for mail daily was my cue to find him a mailbox toy. I scored a used Little Tikes Mailbox at our local consignment store for $9.99. This simple mailbox only produced one sound - a bee buzzing around it unlike the Fisher Price mailbox which has a song mode, learning mode and play mode with various mailbox sound effects.

The used Little Tikes mailbox came with only 1 plastic piece of mail instead of 3 but the missing pieces did not take away from this toy's play value. I improvised. Using small envelopes, I labeled them "Daddy", "Mommy", "Elizabeth", "Matthew", and "cat". Since Matthew can sight read, he hand delivers each piece of mail to the intended recipients without any help. It's very cute and puts a smile on my face whenever he does this. He looks so proud of himself too whenever he delivers the mail. It's hilarious to watch him try to give Yuri, our cat, his mail. Matthew follows Yuri around until Yuri finally settles down somewhere. Then Matthew will lay the "cat" mail in front of Yuri.

For several minutes of entertainment and Matthew's enjoyment in pretending to be a mailman, we like having this mailbox. It's great for pretend play. And to me, any toy that encourages pretend play encourages language development as well.