Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Potty training kids with special needs: Weekend Boot Camp, Day 2

Potty training boot camp: Day 2, Sunday (a two-part series, soon to be a major motion picture!)

9:15: Max is on the toilet; Sabrina's just left for a birthday party. Max kept insisting it's his birthday, and I'm trying to keep things calm so I gave him a birthday bag and he promptly placed it in the bathroom. He is still sharpening his decorating skills.

Our babysitter said that last night, Max enjoyed pretending he was driving while on the potty, so I've got his toy steering wheel in there. I give it to him: "Max! Pretend you are driving! And while you are driving, you can pee!"

Max stares at me because, of course, this makes absolutely no sense.

9:45: Pee! On the potty! "WOOOOO HOOOOO!" I gush, and jump up and down. Max looks very pleased with himself.  

10:15: I leave Max on the potty to wash some dishes in the kitchen. "Ohhmmmy!" he calls. "Ohhmmmy!" I go running in. He points to the toilet seat. He points to me. He raises his hands and shakes his head. Oh! He does NOT want me to do a potty dance. I do not take this personally.

"OK, Max, I won't say anything," I promise. He stands. It's a pellet. We both smile.

12:03: I'm getting a little stir crazy. Just for fun, I do some diaper math.

2.5 packages of Under Jams Diapers For Boys a week at $12.59 a pack
x 52
$1636.96 on diapers every year


2:05: Max has been on and off the potty pretty much every half hour. He and Sabrina are hanging in the living room when I hear "MOMMMY, Max just made in his pants, he made that funny look on his face!"

Me: "Max, did you pee in your shorts?"

Max: "Eeeyah!"

At least he's owning up to it.

2:59: "MOMMMY, Max's timer rang, I got it! Uh-oh."

Sabrina's twisted it the wrong way and now it's broken. "I was using that for Max!" I hiss, unreasonably upset. It's not her, of course, it's the tediousness of sitting at home for two days and thinking of poop and pee. Sabrina's looks crestfallen, and I feel awful. I tell her it's no big deal.

Farewell, chocolate ice-cream timer that looks like poo, hello, boring microwave timer.

2:50: Max takes me by the hand to the potty. He picks up the potty seat, plops it onto the toilet and sits down. A few seconds later: "Nooooo!" He doesn't want to go. April Fool's!

3:42: Max has fart noises programmed into his iPad, and he is tapping them and laughing his head off. I am not quite sure what this means. Probably that he's a boy.

5:00: Darn: wet underwear. I've been diligently putting Max on and off the potty (well, except for one 45-minute nap—being home and doing nothing is exhausting). He keeps jumping up after a few seconds and saying "No"—as in, he doesn't have to go. Except he just did, in his pants.

Max has developed an addiction to Good Luck, Charlie. Me, I'm drained. I'm happy with the successes we've had this weekend, but I'm still wondering about whether Max feels the urge to go. At school, where his teacher has been diligently trying to toilet train Max, he sometimes goes when he's lead to the bathroom, but he does not say when he needs to go.

I have the same picture cue they use there, but he's not interested in using it. Perhaps "Sit on toilet" is not sufficiently inspiring. Maybe "Dude go make some doodie!" would be better?

Also: There's that not-small matter of wiping—not in his repertoire of hand movements—and pulling his pants down. If something even has a little elastic on the waistband, Max can't manipulate it. If I get sweatpants that are too large, they fall down when he walks (true story: once, we were in town and his pants fell to his knees as we crossed the street, which he thought was hysterical and made me wonder if he had a future as a flasher). I'm going to have some Velcro closures made, and try some other solutions. In my spare time.

I'm feeling the weight of Max's challenges.

This is why it's not good for me to have too much time to think.

8:00: Bedtime. I'm getting Max into pj's. He's stayed dry but he also hasn't peed (or pooped) in the toilet. "Max," I tell him, "I am really happy you used the potty this weekend." He turns and point to the stack of Pull-ups on his dresser. I get the message: "Mom, I want those!"

"Max, you can still wear Pull-ups at night but for school tomorrow, you're wearing underwear!"

"NO OOOL!" ["NO SCHOOL!"] he says, one of his favorite refrains. Max actually loves school, but also loves to tell us he doesn't want to go.


My friend Amy, aka Mrs. Chicken, leaves me a note on Facebook: "Go, Max, go (literally)!" I love how friends everywhere are rooting for him.

I email Max's teacher to tell her about our potty-centric weekend. She tells us that when the aide takes him to the bathroom and asks him if he needs to go or not, he's been accurate, which I've also found. So he's consistent about that.

I email his awesome speech therapist, Jen, the one who first got Max to try the iPad. We decide we're making a potty category which such phrases as "Yeah! I peed in the potty!"

A few hours later, I get another email from his teacher: Max has been brought into the bathroom every two hours. Each time, he went. And he's otherwise stayed dry.

"I really think we are on our way to success!!!" she writes.

I so needed to hear that. I know that it's going to be a lot of work. Neither Dave nor I are great with routines, but we're going to have to be diligent about regularly putting Max on the potty, accept the setbacks, keep celebrating the successes.

We owe it to Max, to help him be the most independent he can be. We owe it to ourselves, too.

EXCITING UPDATE!!! This e-mail just in from Max's teacher: "Max is coming home with a purple crown today. he is King of the Potty. He stayed dry all day again. We are so proud of him and he is so proud of himself as well."

EVEN MORE EXCITING UPDATE!!! A happy ending to the toilet-training saga


  1. What great progress. Thanks for sharing it with us all! Way to go Max!

  2. Best of luck to you. Were in the middle of training our 6 year old with Down Syndrome. It has been about 6 weeks and while the going is slow, we are definitely getting there. He wears underwear full time and has had days with only 1 accident.
    I put it off for a long, long time because I figured if I just wait long enough, he would be ready and it would be easy.
    What I am learning is that the only way to the other side is to go through it. It is definitely stressful enough to drive a person to drink or just want to run away.
    You probably know that this is not going to happen over one or two weekends. It is a process. Two steps forward, one step back. After being used to making one way for 6 or 8 years, it is a real paradigm shift to start using the toilet. But my only advice is take it one day at a time. Don't think too far ahead or you may get discouraged. Oh and lots of chocolate and sanity breaks too. And I'm always available to commiserate :)

  3. Go Max go! Go Ellen go!

    And "the only way to the other side is to go through it" is excellent parenting advice in general.


  4. Dear Ellen,

    We're at the same stage with Oatie, it's been 2 weeks now, he doesn't ask but if asked replies and that's been consistent. Virtually dry at night... He won't do the other in the potty yet so we've had to keep a diaper on him as he can't walk and hops everywhere.

    Keep it up xxx

  5. Thank you for blogging this. We're still working on it with my daughter - today, after a few successes/taking her every 15 minutes, she signed potty and then peed in her underpants just as my husband had carried her over the bathroom threshold. But...we're moving forward.

  6. Congrats on the progress, certainly sounds like quite a challenge. I too, have cerebral palsy. I wonder if my parents felt the same way potty-training me!

  7. Good job, Max! You know Ellen, I am always happy to see that Max is really doing great.

  8. Totally awesome about a dry day at school. FABULOUS work SuperMum. You are doing extraordinarily well (with a little help from Max...). Keep your eye on the prize and you will save all those pull=up $$.

  9. love that the school gave him a purple crown!

  10. Way to go MAX! I read about you whenever your Mom posts and you are doing great! A purple crown- most awesome!

    Keep it up!

  11. HOORAYYYYYYY--- so wonderful that he's on his way to SUCCESS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. Every boy laughs at fart noises!!!

  13. The fart comment is so true. I have two brothers and two sons. Burping is popular too.:)


Thanks for sharing!

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