Many parents believe that their special needs child isn’t ready to train, and might not be for years. They have doctors and teachers who agree.
That is a shame, because they can begin the process right away. Today.
Regardless of whether a child has the neurological maturation or the receptive language to do “boot camp” or gradual training, every child that is able to respond to their name, follow simple motor commands, and is able to understand cause-effect is ready to do pre-training.
What is “pre-training”?
Adults are still doing (almost) everything they were doing before: wiping, watching for a full diaper, etc. The difference is that the adult’s behavior will be focused on teaching as well as caring. When we are caregivers, we do things for the other person. When we are teachers, we look for opportunities to build the other person’s skills and independence, and spot chances to educate. Most parents do this naturally with neurotypical kids. But with special needs children, it isn’t as common as it should be. With babysitters and even some professional staff, it is also lacking at times. That can change right now, today.
How does this look?
Instead of allowing a child to watch TV while being changed, the show goes off, and the conversation with the caregiver is a narrative about the task of diapering. We aren’t distracting them; we are teaching and expecting participation. The child is asked to participate whenever possible, including holding a fresh diaper or wipe, tossing the wadded-up diaper in the trash, even flushing the toilet if the waste was dumped into the toilet (that is where it goes for the rest of us, right?)
No fidget toys, no songs about the wheels or the sun. No talking to a spouse or listening to a podcast. Everybody is focused on teaching and learning.
What if your child is unresponsive to your cues to lift their bottom to remove the diaper, or cannot hold the fresh diaper for you while you wipe them?
You don’t give up. You ask your OT or PT for some good ideas on bridging, which is the “therapy” name for lifting their bottom. You fold the diaper and stuff it into their hand or put it in a baggie they can hold. And you practice until they come to expect it as part of the routine.
What if the child is ignoring you?
You don’t give up. Kids learn to pay attention to what we want them to see, and what makes sense to them. Being engaged with them, being encouraging when they do something, and learning that the best way to get your attention is to pay attention at diaper time, will work. You simply make it clear that I love spending this time with you (the child), and I need your attention, and I will be a super-warm and engaging person during this time.
Adults are harder to pre-train than kids. This diaper-time activity isn’t fascinating to US. We have to put in the effort, and act as if we are having the time of our lives. But that is what grown-ups do. We put aside our desires in service to the little people we love and care for. If your babysitter cannot follow that, or really would prefer to speak to her “bestie” while she mindlessly diapers your child….well, you have training of another type to do.
Want more information and advice?
You can get personalized coaching from me if you got to my website and contact me directly at
Tranquil Babies OR …….
read my 2 books on toilet training!!
The Practical Guide To Toilet Training Your Child With Low Muscle Tone
This book is available as a paperback or an affordable e-book on Amazon OR Your Therapy Source.
I include information on how to spot full readiness for potty training, and how to do training the EASY WAY. I cover clothing management, getting your stubborn or resistant child to cooperate with you, and how to go from using the potty at home to using it in the community.
Autism can make potty training challenging. Parents and professionals both want to give up or outsource this thing. But my book helps both parties figure it out. My readiness checklist and my resource guide make it easier. Collaborative Diapering and Targeted Pre-Training allow even the most involved autistic child begin to make progress…today! Check it out by reading