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Guest Blog: Achieving Everyday Milestones – Potty Training - featured September 28, 2011

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Guest Blog: Achieving Everyday Milestones – Potty Training

[Image: pottytraining.JPG]
Photo Credit: abstractmind31

All material Copyright © Novmeber 2010 Enabled Kids
Reprinted with the express permission of the the author and Enabled Kids as originally published on their website.

By: Natan Gendelman

For any child, development is a gradual process that happens step-by-step. Every action that a child learns builds on the one before it, and a child will start to apply these skills as he slowly interacts with his surroundings and discovers the world around him. For a child with Down syndrome, this is no exception since the severity of each child’s condition will vary from case to case. What we need to keep in mind is that every child is unique, with his own set of strengths and areas for improvement. Therefore, what will play a key role in his development is our approach, and our ability to recognize the potential of what a child is able to achieve. By addressing his individual needs, we can then successfully guide him to reach everyday milestones. This is how we can help a child reach independent function, and develop to the best of his abilities.

Perspective. In order to begin this process, the parents’ perspective play a key role in creating a positive and supporting environment for the child. It is important to learn to see your child as the unique individual that he is. Sometimes people forget the significance of this concept, for if a person sees a child’s condition before looking at the child himself, he will label the child as “disabled” and make assumptions about what the child can or cannot do. In this respect, our aim should be to show a child how to improve, not to limit him in any way. For this reason, I personally do not differentiate between a child with a neurological disorder and one without. Whenever I am with a patient, what I see is a normal child; a child that, for some reason, happens to have a disorder. As a result we shouldn’t come to excuse his behaviour, or accept any of his hysterics or tantrums whenever things don’t go his way. If these reactions are inappropriate, then why should we come to accept them from someone with a neurological disorder? Like I always say: no pity, no excuses. Instead, what we should focus on is teaching him a “can do” attitude, from which he will learn the basic principles of interaction, courtesy and respect.

Learning Basic Principles. Truthfully once you start talking to your child and guiding him to regular behaviour and function, he will begin to follow and understand what you want him to do. With time you will see that he is discovering the world and learning to communicate with others. At this point, our job is to explain everything and create connections that the child will come to accept. He will have realized first-hand that if you scream, no one will be able to understand you; that if you kick and bite, no one will bother to come over and play. A child learns that you should be kind to people who are kind to you, and respect those who in turn, respect you. These are very basic principles that every child should know, and someone with Down syndrome should be no exception to the rule. With this guidance, a child comes to learn from his mistakes and develop new skills essential to his everyday life and interactions.

Applying this to new skills. These basic principles become especially important when a child starts learning new skills. In particular, I’ve been asked several questions about potty training by parents concerned about their child’s progress. The process has always been an issue for children with neurological disorders. Yes, you may experience delays in the training process–but there are many ways to approach it, each taking a different amount of time to learn. Even so, there are children without any disorders that still have problems wetting the bed up until their teenage years. In this respect, there is nothing wrong if your child needs to take his time learning the potty training routine.

Observe your child’s habits. Now, what makes potty training a child with Down syndrome or another neurological disorder different is the way in which you should first approach the process. At this point, it is important to observe when your child needs to go pee or poo. This does not happen randomly, but will occur around the same time of day (give or take an hour) when mealtime routines are kept fairly regular. Pay attention to when it happens, then approach your child and speak to him about the process. Clearly describe why and when he should go to the potty, and highlight how it’s something that everyone has to do. Don’t force him to do it, but explain and elaborate on the action; eventually, he will understand and start to follow.

It is important to remember that if a child has just had mealtime, he will need time to digest the food that he has eaten. Heavier foods in particular will take a few hours to break down, meaning that he will need to go to the washroom later. So, don’t put him on the potty only an hour after lunch–like with anyone else, he will not go. By considering his eating habits, you will be able to better understand his bodily functions and be more successful in the training process.

Of course, every child is different and our process may not work for everyone. Even when following a specific approach, some children will have more difficulty than others. As a result, we have to remember that the principles of potty training use the same approach as with everything else we do with your child. Our recommendation is to follow the 3 W’s: watch, wait and win. First, observe your child and when he is usually going to pee or poo. Wait means to be patient, and to adjust yourself to his hours. Next, you should explain, elaborate and demonstrate things for him, even if an action is something that you yourself would take for granted. Finally, you’ll win when a child starts to get up and ask you to put him on the potty.

Potty training is a process that takes time and patience to succeed. However, once your child has reached this milestone, he will have already become one step closer to achieving independent function. So, be persistent in your efforts and guide your child to the best of your abilities. Good luck, and have confidence in what your child can accomplish.


Featured Organization and Author: EnabledKids and Natan Gendelman

We thank Enabled Kids for allowing us to reprint their copyrighted article. For more information about this organization please visit Enabled Kids

Natan Gendelman is licensed as a physical therapist in Russia and Israel. After moving to Canada, he was certified as a kinesiologist and osteopathy manual practitioner. He graduated from the Canadian College of Osteopathy in 2006. Originally from the former Soviet Union, Natan has more than 20 years of experience providing rehabilitation and treatment for conditions such as cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, pediatric stroke, childhood brain injury and autism. He is the founder and director of Health in Motion Rehabilitation, whose main objective is to teach their patients the independence necessary for success in their daily lives. Having started an innovative child treatment program called LIFE (Learning Independent Functions for Everyday), Natan looks to address current problems with dependency and demonstrate how everyone has the ability to strive for improvement, independence and success.

Tags: Article OT Newsletter 30 September 2011