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American Foundation for the Blind® | National Association for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments

It's Time to Sit on the Potty! Toilet Training a Child Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

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Are you wondering when it will be time to toilet train your child? Many experts will tell you that these are some of the indicators that your child is ready: your child is able to distinguish between a wet and dry diaper, can go for one to two hours without a soiled diaper, and is showing some interest in the toilet.

Although training will in general be easier if your child has some awareness of when he is soiling his diaper, you might want to give potty training a try during your child's second or third year. If you try for a few weeks and are not making progress, take a break for a few weeks or months and then try again. Try to keep in mind that children can vary widely in when they are ready to learn to use the bathroom independently and in how quickly they learn.

Here are a few suggestions to consider when approaching toilet training with your blind or visually impaired child:

  • Show your child the potty and its location before you start asking him to sit on it. Let him explore it with his hands and get familiar with it. Explain to your child what the potty is for, and start to talk about using the toilet, if you haven't already.
  • Before you begin formal training, keep track of when your child urinates and has a bowel movement. After about two weeks, you should start to see patterns. For example, your child may tend to urinate about 30 minutes after he drinks. When you're ready to begin actual toilet training, use the pattern you've noticed to predict when he may need to use the toilet. For example, plan to put him on the potty about 25 minutes after he drinks. That way, there is a good chance that your child will urinate in the potty, even if he doesn't yet realize why.
  • Only have your child use the potty in the bathroom. Though it may be tempting to put it in his bedroom, it is important for him to learn that the bathroom is where he uses the toilet.
  • Assist your child, using hand-under-hand or hand-over-hand technique, to pull his pants and underwear up and down. Think about buying clothing that is loose fitting and doesn't have a lot of snaps or buttons.
  • While your child is sitting on the potty, you may find that reading to him is a good way to keep him occupied. This is a good time to pull out those toilet-training picture books. Even if he can't see the pictures, he is likely to enjoy stories about other children who are in the same position!
  • If your child is afraid of the sound the toilet makes when it is flushed, give him some opportunities to flush it when he is not using it.
  • Teach your child to wash his hands after he uses the toilet. If he has low vision, use a soap dish or container that contrasts with the sink or countertop so he can easily see it. Keep the soap and towel in the same place all the time so your child can locate them easily.

Perhaps most important, don't become anxious and stressed over toilet training! Your attitude can affect your child's feelings, and your anxiety can lead to a power struggle. You may encourage your child to want to use the toilet like a "big boy," but putting pressure on a child to perform in a certain way can often produce resistance. Likewise, punishing a child for accidents like wetting his pants is apt to make the process of toilet training more traumatic and difficult. Potty training doesn't happen overnight for any child and always requires patience. It's possible that your child may need more practice than some other children his age, but he can learn to be independent in the bathroom with your support and encouragement.

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