Toilet Training Strategies to Help The Child With A Receptive Language Delay Succeed!


Even after writing my books on potty training, I continue to be aware that some parents (and therapists!) think that there are issues that can completely prevent successful training.  One of these issues is a receptive language delay.  This is when a child’s ability to comprehend language is not age appropriate.  It may be accompanied by a delay in expressive language as well.  I don’t think it is a hard stop to training, but there are some strategies that improve the experience.  Not all of them are obvious.

When a child is unable to easily and quickly understand what you are saying during toilet training, you will need to do a few things differently:

  1. Expect to need established routines to support your verbal instruction.  This can include very regular trips to the potty rather than happening randomly.  Routines are essential for all children, but these kids really need them to shore up the language you are using.  Think about buying something in another language.  The routine or presenting the item, finding out the fee, offering payment and leaving with your item helps you get over the fact that you have forgotten most of your high school level French.  When they always sit on the potty right before a specific show, they know why and what you are saying more easily because they know the context.
  2. Use clear and consistent gestures and facial expressions as additional messaging while teaching and encouraging performance.  Gestures and facial expressions clarify your words and help kids respond quickly.  If they have too many accidents because they were confused, they could decide to stop cooperating.
  3. Monitor your language complexity, and consider simplifying it for ease of comprehension under stress.  As in the Fast Food Rule’s use of Toddler-ese, shorten phrases and emphasize important words.  This is not the time to lengthen your statements.  Repeat if necessary, but don’t elaborate.  Read Taming Toddler Tantrums Using Sympathetic Reframing for more details on TFFR.
  4. Assume that you will need to be more enthusiastic, more positive, and spend more time on training in general.  Your child is probably already someone with a short fuse.  Struggling to understand what people are saying makes that easy.  Now you are trying to teach a new skill, possibly one that they aren’t 100% excited to learn.  That doesn’t mean never teach it.  It means have a good plan, with lots of optimism and patience on your part.

Need a book that will give you useful potty training strategies (not theories or ABA charts?)

I wrote one for you!


The Practical Guide To Toilet Training the Autistic Child:  Sensory-Motor Secrets for Success gives you the skills to make progress today!

  • Learn what true readiness includes, and use the comprehensive readiness checklist to discover what other things need to happen before you start formal training.
  • Don’t let a day go by waiting for the moment to train;  Collaborative Diapering and Targeted Pre-Training are the two revolutionary concepts that get you started in the right direction.
  • The Resource List will help you find the right equipment for the job.
  • The hardest parts of training are the gnarly problems with digestion, smearing and playing with poop, defiance, and fears.  This book doesn’t ignore them:  it deals with each one honestly.
  • Getting to true independence means using the public bathroom.  Learn how to start working on this tricky skill while a  child is still in diapers!
  • The book uses fictional narratives blended with factual techniques to illustrate and humanize what could be just a jumble of details.  Follow three families as they make progress and deal with the challenges that many families face every day.

Go to Amazon (where else?) and buy your paperback version today!

You can buy my e-book on potty training the child with low muscle tone (another Practical Guide!) on my website , Tranquil Babies, where you can also pick up a coaching session with me.  Ask all the questions your therapists and teachers can’t seem to answer, and have me review your plan so we find all the hidden needs that are making things so challenging.  Once you know what to do and how to do it, potty training is no mystery!


By Cathy Collyer

I am a licensed occupational therapist, licensed massage therapist, and certified CBT-i sleep coach in private practice in the NYC area. I have over 25 years of professional experience in adult and pediatric treatment. It has been a joy to help people of all ages improve their ability to grow and thrive! Occupational therapists are focused on enhancing a client's functioning in everyday life. We are practical healthcare providers, interested in teaching, adapting actions and environments, and building a client's useful skills for living their best life, regardless of their challenges. I am the author of five books, including "Staying In The Room: Managing Medical And Dental Care When You Have DID" and "The Practical Guide To Toilet Training the Autistic Child". I lecture on many subjects, including sleep, trauma, and development. Contact me to learn more about how I can help you achieve YOUR goals!

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