Like many many parents across the country, we decided to take the opportunity of being stuck in one place day in day out for a fair few weeks, to toilet train our daughter. However, unlike for many children embarking on learning this rite of passage skill, there would be no potty and no chasing after a little naked bottom trying to protect the carpet. You see our daughter is a little different to most potty training toddlers. First of all, she’s not a toddler. She’s nearly 7 years old. She has quadriplegic cerebral palsy, epilepsy and a severe learning disability meaning she has little speech and a slightly unknown level of understanding. We’re pretty sure she understands way more than most people think and having a go at toilet training felt like one way of proving that. She has a small amount of speech with more new words coming almost daily at the moment with this extended time at home with her siblings.
We’ve had a few brief goes at this over the years but there’s always something that ruins it, like surgery or an infection or lack of appropriate equipment. This time we were ready, determined and had plenty of time to not have to figure out the question of how it would all work in various places as we’re always at home at the moment!
So how did we do it? Well firstly we spoke to our community OT to make sure we could have a portable toilet chair (this battle is still going on but we know we’ll get there with that one). We decided to take a routine approach, which is easier as she’s tube fed a blended diet and regular fluids.
For five days, we put pieces of kitchen roll in her nappy and checked them every half hour throughout the day to note down when they were wet. During these five days I took her with me to the toilet or let her watch her young sister go to the toilet and explained very simply what we were doing. (This may seem really odd, but almost every toddler in the country will have followed parents and siblings into the bathroom many times as part of a normal childhood. Disabled children don’t do this as they’re generally sat in equipment in another room whilst this mysterious business is going on in the toilet – particularly if your toilet is in a separate room to the bath as ours is). At the end of the five days we had a rough idea of when she would need to be put on the toilet.
We then went for it but kept her in nappies so she wouldn’t be uncomfortable in her wheelchair if she wet accidentally. We left her a good amount of time on her toilet chair each time and gave her loads of praise when she managed anything and kept it low key when she didn’t, but with no negative words.
After a week of dry nappies, we decided to go for it with knickers. She clearly knows what she’s doing as we’ve not had one accident yet. We sit her on the toilet around 20 minutes after each feed and a couple of other times so about 6 times a day. As an added bonus she’s also gone dry at night too, so soon we’ll be a nappy free house – hooray!
We’re hoping that by the end of lockdown, she’ll be so used to using the toilet that being out and about won’t be any issue. We had no idea whether or not she could have bladder and bowel control, and with all her challenges it would be easy to assume she doesn’t. I’m so glad we tried and hopefully see a reduction in UTIs and more importantly, never assume anything about what this amazing girl can achieve.