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New Help for Toilet Learning Difficulties

newlearnindifficulties.jpgOur son is just over two. From about 18 months or so, he started to express an interest in the inner workings of the bathroom, we call him the ‘hygiene police’ because he feels that it’s his ‘job’ to make sure that anyone who has used the bathroom washes their hands before leaving. He also thinks that it’s his ‘job’ to flush. This is great actually, because one, we know he’s not afraid of the toilet flushing (which I was as a tot) and two, he gets the whole concept of hand washing after using the toilet. My husband and I took both of these as good signs as well that he was nearing toilet training readiness, and over the past few months has exhibited all of the signs’from being able to go for several hours (sometimes through the night) without wetting to being able to pull up and down his own pants, calling his and daddy’s body parts by the correct names and letting us know that he’s either about to wet or just has. In an effort to help encourage him to use the toilet, I even bought a pack of Pull-ups (big boy underpants) for him to wear. (I still put him in diapers for naps and bedtime though.)

So far, he is taking it all in stride and has made a few attempts to use the toilet, but, we’re not over pushing him, we’re taking the cues from him and helping him come to terms with this new method of waste elimination. My husband and I realize that it may be a while before he’s completely toilet trained despite the bragging by a friend of the family whose grandson is a week older than our son about him being trained already. While we don’t anticipate him still being in pull-ups or untrained when it’s time to head off to kindergarten, but we are glad that there are options for parents whose children seem to be lagging behind significantly when it comes to toilet learning.

Recently, CNN.com reported about a six-week Toilet Training School program started at Boston’s Children’s Hospital. CNN’s Judy Fortin reported that: ‘For some kids, the toilet training process can take more than a year, or longer. [And] The six-week program at Children’s Hospital is one of a handful around the country. Kimberly Dunn, a pediatric nurse practitioner, has worked with some of the 450 young graduates over the years.’

So What Do They Do at Potty Training School?

Many programs use a combination of books about ‘going potty’, calming techniques and allowing the child to go at their own pace depending upon the reasons behind being untrained. According to the CNN article, at Boston’s Children’s Hospital, ‘Dunn meets with a half-dozen children once a week. She uses books, music and art to help the students overcome their fear of using the toilet. She helps them set small, realistic goals. For instance, she said, week one involved just sitting on the toilet for five minutes. She encourages positive reinforcement and simple rewards such as extra playtime with Mom or Dad. While Dunn works on the kids, psychologist Elaine Leclair, an instructor at the Harvard School of Medicine, offers frank advice to the parents in a separate room.’ The program at Children’s Hospital is associated with the Brazelton Institute and Long Island’s Winthrop Hospital is another hospital which caters to the needs of significantly older children (between four and six)) who are not yet toilet trained.

Who Is Potty Training School For?

Most pediatricians agree that a child should be completely trained by around 3 1/2. Potty training school may be right if your child is four (or more) years of age and is not willing to use the toilet. There are a variety of reasons for this including chronic constipation, fear of the bathroom/toilet, or other special needs. It should be noted however that children diagnosed as special needs, including those on the autism spectrum, can take longer to toilet train.

Could ‘sposies be the culprit?

Don’t despair and call your local hospital yet to sign up for classes if your toddler still isn’t toilet trained. Children in the United States tend to take longer to toilet train than their peers in other nations and than their peers from a generation or two before them. So, when grandma says, ‘well you were trained by the time you could walk,’ when she notices that your little one still isn’t quite there yet, realize that a) she’s probably exaggerating a bit, and b) more children wore cloth back then, or if they wore disposable diapers, they weren’t as absorbent as they are today.

Disposable diapers and disposable ‘big kid pants’ could be the culprits for a nation-wide toilet training delay. A 2005 article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer cited Houston-based potty training expert Narmin Papira, who stated: ‘The increasing age of potty training correlates perfectly with the history of disposable diapers.’ Papira went on to say that ‘the child who doesn’t feel’ wet isn’t motivated because they’re not feeling uncomfortable.’ Papira’s findings correlated with those of Ann Stadtler, an associate of the famous Dr. T. Berry Brazelton. Stadtler also believes that the increased pace of modern life factors into later potty training, too, she noted in the article. And Donald Freedheim, Case Western Reserve psychology professor emeritus and founding director of Schubert Center for Child Development Training stated that ‘training ‘late’ encourages the child not to take responsibility [and is] just as bad as starting too early. ‘Ideally, the child’s own wish for autonomy should blend with the child’s wish to toilet train.”

With all of this in mind, we follow our son’s lead, but use every opportunity we get to slip using the potty into our routine.

How will you know if your little one is ready?
Check out these Babies Online resources for tips and tools (listed in alphabetical order):


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