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How to Potty Train a Retarded Child

Typical children sometimes show a desire to potty train and will take the initiative to learn at an early age, while others need coaxing. The "typical" child will usually be toilet trained between the ages of 18 months and three years. Each child is unique and learns at his own pace. For children with special needs, particularly Down syndrome or mental retardation, this process is usually much more frustrating and comes at a later age. The "right time" depends on the severity of mental retardation and the personality of the child. Begin teaching the child at a young age (around two) but expect it to take years to master


Determine expectations. If a child is severely mentally handicapped or still young, you must determine how high toilet training is as a priority and to what extend the child should master this skill. Consider it a success if the child can let you know, or even sit on the toilet when he is ready to go, even if you have to help clean up.


Learn the expectations of the child's future school. A mild to moderately retarded child should be able to master potty training within a couple years after her typical peers, if not sooner. If a child with mental retardation is entering an inclusive school environment (attending a public school) he will most likely have to be toilet trained before entering the school system in kindergarten. Some students with Down syndrome may enter kindergarten a year after typical classmates. Therefore, a child with mental retardation who will be in an inclusive school environment should be potty trained by the age of five or six and can usally master this skill earlier.


Praise success and expect accidents. Children with special needs often have difficulty understanding what it is that parents and teacher want them to do. Praising and being excited and happy for a child when she meets a goal helps the child understand that she has been successful and she is more likely to remember it and repeat the behavior. Chastising a child during the toilet training process will make the child regress and retreat from the situation making it difficult to learn and will cause anxiety. Let accidents and set-backs roll off your back and reward successes with a smile and a high five, a hug or a special treat.


Model how to use the toilet. Parents can show children how to use the potty and verbally express when they have to go (the child can see them go into the bathroom after the parent says he has to go). Other effective modeling techniques are potty training books and videos.


Create a positive reinforcement system. Make a chart near the toilet that the child can put a sticker on after each time she successfully uses the toilet. After the child fills the chart (perhaps three to five times) reward the child with a small treat.


Monitor your child to discover if he has any fears about the toilet. The toilet can be loud and scary to a child. Practice flushing the toilet together so the child learns that the noise can't hurt him. Consider letting the child decorate the toilet or a portable potty (stickers or paint) so they child feels proud using it.

How to Potty Train at School


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