If phrases like bowel movement, poop, turd, and the like bother you, I suggest you skip this post.  Nothing in this post is graphic but it’s hard to not include those words when discussing potty training!

Potty training has been the bane of my parental existence. Questions about my child’s interest in this particular activity started right around his second birthday.

“So, has he used the potty yet?”

“How’s the potty training going?”

“Is he a super pooper?”

These questions come from friends, family, strangers. They assault us out of nowhere and I do mean assault–because the asking of the question shows a lack of understanding for everything we’re going through. First off, we’re focusing on bigger life skills – like talking and being able to communicate with others.  Second, Nate’s sensory system didn’t allow for him to feel a dirty diaper.  The wetness didn’t bother him and he was notorious for having a good jump on his trampoline–going from standing to his rump back to standing–immediately after pooping.

As with every other major milestone, Nate doesn’t do something one day and does it 100% the next. About two weeks ago, Nate suddenly felt that something was in his diaper.  I don’t mean the sensation of going to the bathroom (Nate’s been hiding when he goes #2 since he was 18 months) but that something was actually in his diaper. And it didn’t belong there. And he was going to do something about it. Now.

Apparently, the turd didn’t feel quite right so Nate thought that if he moved it, shifted it to the right or the left, say, that things would be much more comfortable. Faster than I could say, “NathanRobertwhatareyoudoingoverthere?'” Nate reached in his diaper, scooted the turd over, and was attacked by his mother for a hand washing assault before he knew what he did. This happened in two separate incidents on two separate days. And suddenly, potty training was upon us.

This whole process differs from most parents because Nate’s in full-time therapy in public school. This decision and lifestyle change affects Nate’s entire village. A team meeting was already been planned for this past Monday so potty training was added to the agenda. In the meantime, Chad and I went put and bought supplies, namely:

1) the cutest underoos ever

2) a toilet that cheers for Nate whenever something (pee, poop, a toy) falls into the pot

3) a plethora of pants that do not require zipping, buttoning, or anything else that could get in the way of success.

At the team meeting on Monday, Ms. Susie presented me with a Potty Training Form, which I have to sign and give back.  It outlines what the school expects us to do, what we expect the school to do, and what we hope and pray Nate will do: go in the potty.  (I wish there was a line for Nate to sign, too.)  I’m really grateful for this outline because, seriously, Chad and I are at a complete loss for what to do.  And so, here’s the protocol we’re following:

1) Nate’s going from diapers to underoos–cold turkey.  Pull-ups mask the sensation of peeing in your pants; underoos don’t.  (This recommendation comes from both Nate’s current therapy team and his awesome Birth to Three ladies so I take their advice to heart.)  To protect our car seat, furniture, and the like, Ms. Susie has this brilliant tip: put the underoos on under a diaper.  It still allows Nate to feel the moisture without letting my furniture feel it, too.

2) Nate will be taken to the potty every half an hour.  The clock resets the moment his tushy touches the potty, not the moment he gets up from it.  As our bathroom is on the second story, we will keep our Cheer for Nate potty in the living room so that I don’t have to run up and down the stairs a billion times in one day (though the thought of emptying it grosses me out….).  In case he needs to go to the potty before the half-hour time, Nate’s teacher has a ton of  potty PECS cards scattered throughout the room so her nonverbal students can communicate their need before it’s too late.

3) Nate will get to hold a special treat only while he’s on the potty.  Ms. Susie suggested that it be something too large to fall in the toilet; apparently the school’s plumber has fished out his fair share of Matchbox cars.  Nate loves clocks so he will get to hold a giant clock.  We’ll taking the plastic off of the front so Nate can make the hands go around and it will hopefully distract him enough to get him to sit there and do the deed.

4) Aside from a massive parade, Nate will get a special treat if he does something (anything!) in the potty.  The reward has to be different than the motivational ones that he already receives in therapy.  Our dentist (that’s a whole other post) suggests that Nate wean off of the sticky treats like jelly beans, which is what we’re currently using in therapy, and recommends chocolate instead because it melts away from between teeth rather than becoming stuck there.  So, on Monday, Nate will get a tangerine jelly bean as his potty time reward and chocolate chips for his therapy reward.  The new scarcity of tangerine jelly beans just might be what Nate needs as motivation.

This plan is putting everything on hold.  No new programs will be introduced at school, therapy might very well come to a screeching halt, and Chad and I plan to do nothing but pray that the potty cheers for Nate.  Potty training has many steps that will take Nate a lot of time to sort through: knowing you have to go to the bathroom, going to the actual room, pulling down your pants, sitting down, doing something, pulling up your pants, flushing, and washing your hands.  That’s a lot for Nate to coordinate and sort out; Nate hasn’t yet accomplished one-step directions.  Ms. Susie shared that it has taken her students up to a year to really get on the potty train.  I am really, really, really hoping that Nate doesn’t take a year to figure this out.  I don’t think I can mentally take a year of this process though Ms. Susie said she’ll cheer us on when we think we can’t do it anymore as long as we return the favor.

This process isn’t without leeway for reality.  Nate’s going to be in diapers when we go shopping (because there’s no way he’s going to sit on a Target toilet – and there’s no way I’m carrying the Cheer for Me potty to the store) and when he has his PT and OT sessions outside of school.  He’ll also be in diapers overnight and during naps.  And, even though it sounds wrong, I might even put him in one when I need a break.  (I don’t know about that one.  Ask me on Sunday.)

On Tuesday, Nate had a tour of the boy’s bathroom at school and he’ll have another one today and tomorrow, prepping him for the big introduction on Monday.  His teachers will try to not take him in the bathroom when large classes go in there (the pre-K, Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd graders have bathroom breaks) though goodness knows that just might be the “moment” of need for Nate. In the meantime, I welcome any and all advice that you may have about this adventure and look forward to sharing (in words only!) the moment when Nate achieves success!

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