Toilet training can be a stressful time for any parent or carer as they attempt to teach their child how to transfer from using a nappy to using a potty. Every child is different and each family’s experience will be unique, and there may be challenges. The same can be said for parents of children with additional needs. Continue reading our how-to on toilet training for additional needs children.

Toilet training for additional needs children

Potty training for children with additional needs can work in much the same way as when teaching children without additional needs. However, there are a few things to consider when toilet training for additional needs children, one thing to consider is communication.

Some children do not have the capacity to effectively communicate their emotions or needs, so this must be taken into consideration during potty training. This can include the inability to tell a parent or guardian that they need the toilet. It can also include anything they want to say while sitting on the potty. In this case, it’s important to keep track of how often the child needs to go to the toilet.

Another consideration for toilet training for children with additional needs is that they must be in an environment where they feel comfortable and relaxed. A stressful atmosphere will not help anybody during the toilet training process, so patience and calmness are both required.

If attempting to train a child directly onto the toilet, and avoiding a potty, ensure that there is a footstool or step available to them. Helping them feel comfortable enough to step up to the toilet themselves can be vital.

Key approaches for success

Preparing for this important stage of your child’s development is important. Here are some key approaches you can do to ensure both you and your child are ready.

  • Choose the right time for you and your child
  • Be prepared for potential struggles
  • Ensure you have help and support from a spouse, family member, or carer
  • Don’t expect your child to show signs of wanting to use the toilet
  • Ensure the bowels and bladder are working well and are healthy
  • Break down the task of toilet training into small, simple steps

Signs of readiness

For many children, there can be a few telltale signs that they are ready to start toilet training. If your child is displaying any of the below signs, then it could be time to start the process.

  • The child is aware of the difference between being wet and being dry
  • Are they staying dry for at least two hours at a time?
  • Is the child sensing that they need to pass urine or have a bowel movement?
  • Can the child dress and undress themself or at a stage where they’re ready to learn?
  • Is the child motivated to learn the next step?

Toilet training steps

If your child is ready to take the next step in their development, then you can start the toilet training process. If the time has come to start the toilet training for additional needs children, consider these four important tips.

  • Sitting practice
  • Gentle steps
  • Reward for effort not success
  • Healthy bowel and bladder

Sitting practice

If you’re struggling with toilet training for your child, then consider some sitting practice. This involves letting your child sit comfortably, while still wearing their nappy, from time to time on the potty or toilet. Let them sit there after meal times and allow them to feel more comfortable and confident sitting on their potty.

While the child is sitting on the potty, ask them to count to five with their fingers. Over time, this number can be gradually increased and rewarded with a sticker.

Gentle steps

After a while of repeating the process, the child may actually be comfortable enough to have a wee while sitting on the potty or toilet. As a reward for this, they can receive a sticker on a sticker chart.

Gradually increasing the number to count to, and the amount of times they pass urine or have a bowel movement, will make the child feel more comfortable. They may even want to take their nappy off.

Reward for effort not success

It’s important to remember that the stickers for reward are for the child’s effort and not success. Once they’re more comfortable with sitting on the potty, they may take themselves over to it and sit down by themselves. This warrants a reward as it shows a willingness to use the potty or toilet.

Healthy bowel and bladder

Finally, it’s important to ensure that the child has a healthy bowel and bladder. A child should be drinking around six drinks every day to keep urine healthy.

A lot of children can experience constipation, so it’s important to keep a close eye on them if this is the case. If it persists, then get the help and treatment they need as soon as you can.

How Seashell can help you

At Seashell, we can help you and your child with our family support services. We pride ourselves on the excellent relationships we build when working with parents of children with special needs, as well as carers and other professionals. 

Our close relationships with these stakeholders, alongside our family support and assessment, intervention and training services, allow us to deliver outstanding outcomes and positive experiences for the children and young people in our care, whilst simultaneously providing parents and carers with invaluable support

If this sounds like something you’d like to hear more about, contact Seashell today on 0161 610 0100 or email us at