How To Decide Between “Boot Camp” and Gradual Potty Training


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Whether or not you are training a special needs child or a neurotypical child, you will have to think about exactly which methods you will be using.  The two general categories for training strategies are the “boot camp”, in which the child spends days living near the potty, focusing on toileting, and the gradual approach, where independence in identifying urgency and using the toilet is achieved over a much longer period of time.


There are advantages to each.  Intensive training can make it easier for some kids to learn what they are supposed to be doing.  They get a lot of practice, and a lot of opportunity to be rewarded.  They also have many accidents, and are usually restricted to being at home and in only sections of the house for most waking hours.


Gradual training allows for all of the complexity of life to go on.  No activities are restricted, and fewer accidents happen when a child is allowed to wear a diaper occasionally for outings and school.  This more “laid back” approach is less disruptive to the entire family, but it could mean that there are many stops and starts to potty training.  Kids can get the wrong idea, and think that it is optional to use the toilet.




Families have to ask themselves a lot of questions to know which approach is right for them.  And then they have to decide if a hybrid model is actually their better bet.


  • Who will be doing the training?  Boot camp tends to be run by one adult over a number of days.  Are there other adults that can manage everything else that needs to happen during that time?
  • What is the child’s learning style?  Some kids really do need an intensive to have enough repetitions for learning.  Others don’t handle the huge alteration in daily routines that come with “boot camp” well.  They fall apart with too many accidents in one day.  Or the adult does.  Some adults have ADHD or a mental issue that makes intensives really hard for them.  Their child will suffer if they are struggling.  That isn’t a good idea for anyone.
  • How much pre-training has been done?  In pre-training, the child learns the words and the moves needed for potty training.  Sitting for a while without complaining, leaving an activity when “Nature” calls, pulling down pants and washing hands.  All of these are part of the event, and all make it clear that the goal is independence, not simply passive compliance to diaper changes.
  • Will “boot camp” be enough?  A lot of kids do some intensive training to get momentum and a basic level of skills under their belts (figuratively!) and then continue with a gradual approach until they can use public toilets independently.  Yup.  Full independence is really FULL.  No help.  Completely by themselves.  If you are still wiping him at 6, or you have to remind her to flush and wash at 7, they aren’t fully trained.

For more on potty training, read The Ten Most Common Mistakes Parents Make During Toilet Training  and How Being Toilet Trained Changes Your Child’s Life  .

Have a child with hypotonia (low muscle tone)?  

I wrote a book for you!!!


“The Practical Guide to Toilet Training Your Child With Low Muscle Tone “ is filled with information that will explain why potty training this child is more of a challenge.  Hint:  it is a sensory-motor skill, not a purely behavioral one.  I will explain all the times you thought things were worked out, and found out they were most sincerely not.


I don’t stop there.  I give you a full understanding of how to get in front of these problems, with checklists and clear explanations for every step along the way.  You can be successful, starting today!

How can I buy this book?

“The Practical Guide to Toilet Training Your Child With Low Muscle Tone” is available as a printable download at Your Therapy Source  , a fabulous site for teachers, therapists, and the parents of special needs kids.

It is also available as a paperback and read-only e-book on Amazon  .


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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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