Being a speech therapist, we work closely with children and their parents and often get asked about helping their child navigate the big milestone of potty-training. There is not one way that seems to work for every child, but here are some things to consider when it’s time to start potty training regarding speech and language.
1. Is your child ready? Can they answer “yes/no” questions, follow directions and initiate a request (whether using signs, words, or pictures)? If so, they should be ready to start this process, but if not, it would be good to focus on those things before beginning.
2. Introduce your child to the potty and all the vocabulary that goes along with it. You can find many potty-training books that are designed to introduce your child to this new concept. You will want your child to understand all the words you will be using for potty training, and it is also important to keep the same vocabulary consistent (which words your family will use when discussing using the restroom, and what names you will use to label body parts etc.)
3. Start to narrate the steps for going to the bathroom. Depending on your child’s needs, you can verbally narrate or use pictures. Use descriptions that match your child’s language level (words, phrases, pictures, gestures, etc.) Here is an example of a picture sequence you can print and keep in the bathroom.
4. Decide the best way for your child to communicate to you the need to use the restroom. Depending on your child’s communication level, you might teach them to say just the word “potty” or the sentence “I need to potty”. You can also teach the sign for potty (make a fist with your thumb sticking out between the index and middle finger and shake wrist). You can also use pictures and keep a picture near the restroom that your child can grab and bring it to you to request to help with going to the restroom.
5. Be patient and positive and think about using rewards and not punishments. Reinforce your child with stickers, food, or whatever they may find motivating. It is important to consider that if your child is not having success, they might not be ready. Remaining positive will help to eliminate stress and anxiety that can be associated with this process.
–Carrie Ravine M.S., CCC-SLP