Sunday, March 4, 2018

Special Needs Potty Training . . . Take Two . . . Four Months In

Some of you know we started potty training Clara at the end of October of 2017. This is the second go-round with potty training. 

Love her smile here!

Our first attempt started okay, yet ended with us never fully taking away her pull-ups, which resulted in us slacking on her sit schedule, which basically confused the daylights out of Clara, which is not ideal for a child who is significantly delayed in development. Consistency is um, key. I could fill these lines with lots of excuses as to why we never fully went for it (language barrier being the main excuse) but honestly, I just wasn't ready to go all in and give it 100%. 

Toward the end of last year Clara's BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst, think lead therapist that is in charge of her targets and treatment plan at school) encouraged us to try again and this time go all in. As in, follow their protocol 100%. As in, take away the pull-up from day one and no going back. Our BCBA thought she was ready and since it was the start of "a new school year," (she goes year round but this decision came in the fall of the school year) he encouraged us to truly give it our all. 

I am not exaggerating when I say I cried for a solid 24 hours leading up to day oneBrandon thought his wife had gone off the deep end. Bless his heart for not giving up on me. 

Initially the protocol was intense (see below). And by intense I mean we were literally living in the restroom. This protocol was happening 24/7 (unless sleeping at night), both at school and at home. 

  • Every two minutes prompt to drink.
  • Every five minutes conduct a dry check. If dry give verbal praise.
  • Every thirty minutes - 10 minutes on the potty, 20 minutes off
  • Play iPad is reserved for successful voids on the toilet only. If she has a success she gets the iPad for 5 minutes, then it goes away. She is not allowed access to the iPad at all unless a success. This will help pair her most reinforcing item with voiding on the potty. I pee on the potty, I get iPad.
  • If she has an accident, we say "No wet pants," and take her immediately/swiftly to the toilet to sit and help clean herself up.

Those first few weeks were messy to say the least. Like REALLY messy. Yet, approximately two weeks in, she started initiating! I was honestly shocked she picked it up so quickly. Once she started initiating, we were told to drop the sit schedule (all the praise hands!), yet still prompt her to drink every two minutes and dry check her every five minutes. 

Once she achieved 20 straight successes with no accidents, (only referencing urine here, was told BM's will come later, so when I reference an accident I'm referencing pee) we stopped pushing fluids. She conquered this in December 2017.  

The next goal, and where we have been since December of last year, is one month of initiations with no accidents. Once she makes it one month accident free, we can teach her to mand/request for restroom using her iPad/speech device (she has a separate iPad for communication).

Our BCBA is confident in this requirement/goal of one month accident free, and it is based in the latest ABA (applied behavioral analysis, the type of therapy Clara receives at school) research for children who are delayed in development/Autistic. 

The longest she has made it is three weeks accident free. Again, just talking pee here, she still poops her pants daily (smile). I keep reminding myself that three weeks is remarkable! Truly incredible! But honestly, it is disappointing and frustrating when you think you're almost there and then boom, accident. Data is wiped clean and you start over, again. 

Lately, we have seen regression on the weekends, for whatever reason. We are investigating this to see what triggers might be occurring and how to help eliminate them. The past few weeks she has had accidents during the week, as well. Two last night. Sigh. I know she will get there. I know she will. 

We have been limiting her outings because 1. she is required to initiate and 2. she does so by walking to the restroom and 3. we are this far in and thus determined to not deviate from the protocol. So as you can imagine, asking her to initiate when out and about in the community can get tricky when she doesn't know where the restroom is located. So we are homebound a lot. Which is okay. I know this is just a phase and it WILL be worth it in the end. Just got to keep pressing in and pressing on. 

Once we can teach her to request restroom on her iPad, her world (and ours!) will really open up again and we can do more things as a family of four etc. 

Thank you for the encouragement, texts, phone calls and random check-ins over the past few months. We feel loved and supported and are beyond grateful for those that rally around us in times like this where raising a child with special needs feels a bit, well, tiring. 

Loving her new glasses!
(Eyes must be on her all the times, as we have to see when she walks into the restroom. This can be challenging when multiple children have conflicting needs both physical and emotional. We have tried putting a sensor in the restroom to alert us when it senses motion, but every one we've tried is WAY too loud and scares the daylights out of her.) 

Will you pray with us that God will open our eyes to any triggers that might be causing the regression? Will you pray that we won't grow weary in his process and will continue to give it our best? Will you pray that Clara makes it one month accident free?

Thank you, thank you, thank you! 

Praying the next update involves Clara requesting potty on her iPad/speech device!

***There's been a few times I/we have missed Clara walking into the restroom and found her minutes later on the toilet just sitting there waiting for us. Cutest ever! A few times her pants have been drenched, but we were so proud because she did what she was supposed to do! She felt the urge,  held it, walked to the restroom, got on the toilet, and urinated. She can't pull her pants/underwear down unassisted, thus why she was soaked. Once she did the same thing and then even got off (guess we were really distracted, usually happens around dinnertime) and flushed the toilet! We ran in to find her grinning from ear to ear!! Her pants were soaked but man, what a gift from God to get this glimpse into what she CAN do and the confirmation to just keep at it.***


  1. Holy smokes... this sounds HARD! And daily pooping in undies is not fun to deal with either. Now I have more of an idea as to why my special needs sister wasn't potty trained until 6 or maybe older. Praying for you. May the Lord give you insight and determination to get through this rigorous potty training schedule!

    1. Thank you! Yes, it really is hard!!! Night and day different from training Camille who was literally training in two days lol. So thankful for the glimpses of success that God gives us and such a hard working little girl!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing transparently, it helps me support and know how specifically to pray for my friends who are walking similar journeys to yours & Clara's. Big hug coming your way! "We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy," Colossians 1:11 NLT. Taking that a step further, may you be filled with JOY RENEWED!! XOXO

  3. Just in case no one told you today, YOU are a superhero. I know you would do absolutely anything for your daughter but wow, just wow! That sounds so hard, and I can only imagine the immense pride you will feel when the potty training part of the journey is complete.

    1. That is very sweet, thank you! But I'm really not . . . really . . . just a mom doing anything I can for my kid, just like anyone else would for their child. :)

  4. As always, I'm super impressed with Clara's progress and yours/Brandon's patience in the meantime... though I know this has not been easy by any stretch! Praying for her to hit the 1-month mark SOON!

  5. Will continue to pray for Clara to hit that goal and for God to sustain you and Brandon as you work with her! <3


© A Joy Renewed. Made with love by The Dutch Lady Designs.