How is potty training going for you? Have you hit any roadblocks?
Potty training can be difficult for everyone, but for kids with sensory processing disorders (SPD), there are many added stressors that neurotypical people never consider. When you have SPD, sometimes you don't notice things like that feeling of having to 'go.' Either your brain gets the signal that your bladder is full too late, or it can't quite make sense of the signal to know what to do with it.
Why is potty training more difficult for kids with sensory processing disorders?
Once your brain tells your body you have to go, there are added stressors that many neurotypical people would never think about. The loud sound of the toilet flushing, buttons, and zippers that need to be unfastened, the feeling of the cold, hard (or even worse: warm) toilet seat in public bathrooms can be overwhelming to a person with SPD. Then you have to 'go.' 'Going' is often not as easy for an SPD child as you may think. Children with SPD often have a hard time 'letting go.' It takes time and effort that a neurotypical person doesn't have to put in. Now imagine: you are trying to put in extra effort to 'go' while also being stressed about the feeling of the toilet seat, the sounds of the automatic flushing toilets, the loud hand dryers, all while trying not to fall in. Whew! That exhausting, right?!
Tips and Tricks for Potty Training Kids with SPD
For kids with SPD, public bathrooms can be a stressful place. So we put together a little bag that goes with us anytime we go out. These things help take some of the stress away from having to use a public bathroom.
Sticky Notes: These little babies a great for covering the sensor on automatic flushing toilets. It took a hot second for Ellie to trust that it would stop the toilet from flushing, but now as long as we have our sticky notes, we have eliminated one fear. Eliminating one fear gives her fewer things to think about because automatic flushing toilets aren't just awful because of the noise, but also... the splash.
Headphones: Headphones are essential for blocking out the noise of other flushing toilets, hand dryers, and people. Public bathrooms are noisy places, full of metallic sounds. I didn't know what a metallic sound was before having a child with SPD, but once you know, you know. Headphones muffle those sounds that are painful to her little ears and make it easier for her to balance on the toilet because she is no longer cringing or trying to cover her ears.
Paper Towels: These are so important because if you don't like wet and don't like hand dryers... WHAT DO YOU DO?? We always keep paper towels in our bag for when they are not available.
Hand sanitizer: Hand sanitizer is a must for us. Along with all the other things, listed SPD kids may be sensitive to water temperatures. Mine is. (I don't like giving her baths; she wants the water so cold). Occasionally, automatic water faucets are too warm for Ellie. On those occasions, we opt out of handwashing and use hand sanitizer. I know this may bother some parents who think sanitizer isn't as good as hand washing. But consider this: Your child is one step away from winning a war. Are you really going to let handwashing in water that your child actually finds painful going to let you lose? No! Give that kiddo hand sanitizer and celebrate!
These things have helped our potty routine so much. By eliminating some of the stressors of going to a public bathroom, it's no longer a fight to get her into one. While learning that we need to go is still a process, not being scared to go is very helpful.