Monday, August 31, 2009

Adventures in Potty Training: Dyspraxic Child v. Typical Child

When I began the potty-training process with Brendan, when he was two-and-a-half, (the age, mind you, that had been recommended by all the books I'd read, our pediatrician, and my mother-in-law), I was confident that my smart little boy would be potty-trained in no time flat.

I believed that I could and would be consistent in our efforts. I had read a variety of methods and decided on the one I thought best for our lifestyle and his temperament. I was optimistic, to say the least.

For weeks, we struggled. I changed my methods. I tried everything my friends and family suggested. I gave up. I waited until he was three and tried again. This time, we had a bit more success, but still battled daily urinary accidents. And going poopy on the potty? Forget it!

When he was four and a looming August 10 start date for pre-K lay ahead in my future, I was panicking. Freaking out. Finally, after having tried everything to motivate him, educate him, help my son, I called our pediatrician. Her advice? Give up. Literally.

She said to give up trying to train him for one month. She said to put him in pull ups and just leave him alone for one month. To not even mention it. Against every thing that I believed to be true and sacred about parenting, I did exactly what she told me. worked.

About one month before school began, we put Big B back into regular underwear, told him he was to use the toilet for everything, and he did. He was able to start school with no accidents and he did great.

If only I had known then that he had dyspraxia, I could have saved both him and me many, many tears and hours of pain and anxiety over all of it. I could have saved his self-esteem and my own.

Now that he's been diagnosed, I know that late toilet training is a symptom or sign of dyspraxia. Back then? I just thought he was too stubborn or too easily distracted to focus on what his body was doing. Now, of course, I realize that the process of nerve endings and signals back and forth between brain and bladder and the various other body parts involved is so complicated that the dyspraxic child isn't physically mature enough at two and some not until they are much older, to get it right.

Now I know though. Still, when I began potty training Little B three weeks ago, I began cautiously and fearfully. I was fearful that I was entering another Showdown to the Death. That's what training Big B felt like to me. Between the potty training that was going wrong and the lack of sleep, I really thought one or both of us might die before we were done. And as I began training Little B, I really thought that it had the potential to be just as bad. To me, it felt like Potty Training PTSD. Just thinking of going through that again made me want to crawl inside myself.

I needn't have worried, though. By virtue of the fact that he doesn't have Developmental Dyspraxia, Little B has flourished in his efforts to be a Big Boy.

We spent a couple of days with him in pull-ups, being introduced to the toilet. I would give him juice and then every 10 min. thereafter put him on the toilet with the potty seat attached. After those first two days, he went into regular Thomas underwear, hand-me-downs from his big bro. After a couple of days that consisted of lots of him sitting on the toilet while I ran water and read books to him as we waited for him to pee only to have him have an accident as soon as we left the bathroom, we moved on to successful peeing in the potty with lots of M&Ms and stickers for rewards.

I took Little B to the store where I let him pick out his own underwear (he chose Sesame Street and Thomas) and the rest is history. We're three weeks in and he has only had two accidents the last week. He still hasn't pooped on the toilet, but I'm no longer worried.

I can't tell you what this kind of success has done to restore my confidence as a mom. I'm trying to focus on that and not beat myself up about not knowing Brendan was different. He was my first and I didn't know. And neither did our pediatrician. I talked to them a lot about it and they just kept telling me kids train when they want to. I can wish all day that we'd had an earlier diagnosis, but it doesn't change anything.

All I can say is that my heart is with every parent who is trying to potty train a dyspraxic child. And with that, I would say that if that describes you, be patient. It will come to them. Try, too, to remember that it is not a reflection on you or your parenting abilities if your dyspraxic child toilet trains late. Just keep your patience. I didn't have the luxury of knowing what our problem was and I wasted many tears fighting a battle I could have avoided.


pslocali said...

Congratulations! That is a huge accomplishment!

My daughter just turned 3 and we are going to give it a go here shortly (she has autism, global apraxia and is completely non-verbal). I'm nervous but not feeling the pressure yet but I'm sure once we get going I'll be an anxious crazy mess.

Wish me luck!!!

Scattered Mom said...

*sigh* I know EXACTLY what you mean. Jake had bathroom issues for years. YEARS! I finally just gave up and showed him how to strip his bed, change his sheets, and we'd wash them together. Sometimes he'd go through 3 sets of sheets a night. A lot of it was anxiety, coupled with the dyspraxia.

And then suddenly, it just went away.

There are SO many times I've said "Oh if I had only KNOWN."

Kel said...

It always amazes me how potty training can be one of the most difficult and rewarding jobs as a parent. We want so much to get it right only sometimes, we don't understand enough to not blame ourselves.

Great post!

Dawn said...

Kel, thanks! You're so sweet. In hindsight, I don't know why we invest so much of ourselves in having our children use the toilet "on time," but I swear I've spent the last 4 years feeling like a failure. It is as if a weight has been lifted off me these last few weeks in getting the baby to toilet train. Who woulda thunk? : )

@Pslocali, my thoughts and wishes for great success are with you! You and your little girl can do it! Just be patient (I know you will!) and trust your instincts about when to push ahead and when to take a break. Best of luck to you both and thanks for coming to my blog. Hope to see you again! : )

@ScatteredMom, I just want to give you a hug. We've been pretty lucky the last year with nighttime accidents, but the still happened occasionally up until about a year ago.

No one can understand unless they have a child who is different. It's so very challenging. I'm so glad to be connecting with people who understand.

Cranky Mommy said...

I started trying with AT when she was 2.5 and you were still working with Brendan. It took about a year for her total. The time from when she "took over" to being totally trained was just a few weeks, though. It was talking to you that made me not worry about it too much and to just follow her. Even though you were feeling anxiety about it, you still managed to help me not get too frustrated with the whole process.

monkeymadness said...

Thank you so much for this!

Ive been unable to find much on the web about toilet training a child with dyspraxia.

I have an older son who potty trained in a matter of days, but I have been persisting with my youngest son now for months!

I think i need to de-stress, bring out the pull-ups again and try again in a couple of months. He turned 3 in August but he was born 13 weeks early so his "true" age is only just 3 now.

Thanks again!