Potty Training and Down Syndrome.

Last Updated on February 13, 2021

When it comes to down syndrome and potty training, what is normal?

Not much research has been carried out here to find out what is deemed normal when trying to train children suffering from down syndrome. However there are a few things that have been noted that could help;

In the 1980s studies where conducted that have proven that most children suffering from down syndrome were staying dry at night time and during the daytime between the ages of 4 and 5years. The more newer studies done in the mid 90s has proven that only 35% of children suffering from down syndrome were daytime potty trained by the age of 4years and also that by the age of 11 years 1 in 3 of them were still experiencing accidents during their day time trainings.

Studies carried out on children with down syndrome shows that they carry on typical developmental and gendered pattern with the baby girls getting potty trained much earlier than baby boys. The only major difference between them and normal children was the fact that their potty training regime took longer than their counterparts.

So when is the perfect time to start potty training a child with down syndrome, you may ask?

Well there is no stated age at which you can start potty training your child, so your best bet is to just look out for the signs that your child is now ready to move onto their road to freedom. Also you need to be mentally prepared because this will be quite an uphill challenge that will require a bucket load of patience from all through out this process.

How to know if your child with down syndrome is now ready for potty training.

This will certainly not been a walk in the park, because no two children are alike. Each child has their own unique way around things, they may show their readiness at very varying ages so don’t feel pressurized to start training your child just because your best friend’s child has already started training. Having said all that, here are a few signs or signals to look out for that may indicate that your child is now ready to start off with the process of potty training;

  • Is he is showing a great interest in personal hygiene processes such as washing hands, brushing teeth and self care processes such as dressing up, taking medications and basic health care.
  • Is very keen on how toileting works.
  • Is able to fully empty his bladder each time he goes to pee in the toilet, he also manages to stay dry for at least 2hours on end.
  • His bowel movement is predictable and very regular.
  • Shows you through gestures that he needs a diaper change after he has wet it or soiled it.
  • May be able to communicate his need for the bathroom through gestures, facial expressions, visual aids or even words.

Always wait until your child has demonstrated all the above mentioned signs before you start with the training. What to particularly look out for is an interest in using the toilet, some sort of a consistent toileting routine and the physical awareness of the urge to use the bathroom.


You may be asking yourself why some of the readiness tips from other lists have been omitted from the above list.

Well, when it comes to potty training and down syndrome you will most likely find that a lot of the readiness is being centered around motor skills development as being part of the readiness for potty training. Such as can they walk independently or unassisted to the bathroom, can they undress themselves from the waist down and are their balancing skills good enough for them to sit up on the toilet for at least 5mins on their own.

Reason down syndrome is a condition that actually affects a lot of the child’s motor skills. and we all know that potty training success is heavily dependent on good motor skills as well as communication.

Training a child with down syndrome is most certainly at an easy task, so before you begin with your Potty training regime you will need to ask yourself, am I fully ready for this!

In as much as it is for your child to be fully potty trained, it is just as important for you to be fully prepared, if you and your partner are raising your child together then bring him onboard as well so you are all on the same page with the training.  This essentially means that you will be ready or prepared to deal with the following;

  • Accidents- Both you and your child’s mistakes will happen. If you miscommunicate an instruction to your child, he may not fully understand what message you are driving across. Y our child will of course have mistakes of his own so brace yourself for these and try to remain as calm about it as possible so you can deal with them positively.
  • Expect some setbacks here and there- It is quite common for children suffering from down syndrome to regress from time to time more especially when their are experiencing some emotional destress. For an example you may observe that the passing of your father ( beloved grandpa) has resulted in the undoing of a potty training skill he had mastered previously.To help you deal with this emotional unrest it is best to take your child in for therapy to help him along. Once that issue has been sort potty training can be resumed and everything will go swimmingly again!
  • The will be tears- brace yourself for a lot of crying, from both yourself and the child. Your child may be emotional because he is just not having a good day and you may feel weepy because you are so overwhelmed by the entire process of the training of your child with all it’s roller coaster ups and downs.
  • Dealing with the messes – Even though your child may be a older and bigger he will still have those bad days when a lot of messes happen, you just need to embrace that and find a way of dealing with it positively. Don’t be angry and scold him that will just set him back and derail all the efforts you had worked so hard to achieve.
  • The late night accidents – Those late night accidents can be the worst ever, because after a long hard day all you want to do is just curl up on your couch with a cup of chamomile tea to unwind. So the though of your child having pooped on your lounge carpet can drive you up the wall. Take time out for at least 5mins to breathe in and out and calm yourself before you can actually tackle the mess and clean ups.
  • You will be doing a whole more shopping than usual so be prepared – With the potty training process comes a lot of messes so you will be doing a lot of shopping for cleaning materials and other things that can help mitigate any unforeseen accidents.
  • Doing more and more laundry – Because of all those little unwarranted accidents that your child may be having you will find yourself doing a lot more laundry than usual, cleaning up soiled linen and clothes will become a major part of your life!

You need to know all the challenges that you may be up against before you start  potty training your child with down syndrome.

  • Making toilet as simple as possible and not making it too abstract. – All children with down syndrome thrive with simple and clearly presented information. So when you are training your child try as much as possible to make it more visual so that your child can fully understand exactly what you are trying to ask him to do. Show him how to use the toilet because to him he still has quite understood the bodily cues about the urge to go. And how to use the toilet itself.
  • How to handle regression – Regression and loss of toileting skills is fairly common amongst children with down syndrome so try as much as possible to avoid any unnecessary emotional unrest for your child. But if you do experience any do take him to a behavior therapist to help him overcome any emotional issues that may be affecting him.
  • Dealing with hypotonia – Most children suffering from down syndrome have very weak or low muscle tone all through out their bodies making it difficult to use their pelvic floor and colon muscles to hold in urine or bowel movements leading to their very frequent accidents. So it would be advisable to work with a physiotherapy on this to help your child build that lost muscle tone.

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