How to Potty Train a Child with ADHD
Potty training a child with ADHD can be challenging, but it can be done and there are special tips and tricks that can make the task easier. Even so, it will require some extra patience on the part of the parent.
As the parent of a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) you are well aware that children with ADHD have short attention spans, are easily distracted, have trouble organizing thing, are forgetful and tend to lose things. They also tend to be overly active. They can’t sit still, they squirm and squiggle all over the place, talk all the time, etc.
Oddly enough they can also become hyper focused on things that they find very interesting or of things such as video games that give them instant gratification. In other words, they can become focused on one thing to the exclusion of all else.
What you may not have realized is that there are three versions, categories or sub-types of ADHD. With one version inattentiveness predominates, while with another version hyperactivity predominates. The third version is a combination of the worse of both worlds, where the child is both inattentive and hyperactive. Girls with ADAD generally tend to fall more in the first category.
Each of these, both inattentiveness and hyperactivity on one hand, and hyper-focusing on the other, are issues that as parents you will have to deal with when potty training your ADHD child. But take heart, millions of children with ADHD have been successfully potty trained, and yours can be too.
The timing for potty training an ADHD child is slightly different from that of normal children. Normally potty training, depending on the child, can start as early as 18 months to as late as 36 months. With ADHD children the start time is generally a little later on average. The precise timing of course will be determined by the readiness of your child. Prematurely potty training an DAHD child can make the process long and difficult.
If you are paying attention to your child, they will let you know when the time is right. There are several signs that will indicate that they are ready.
- First, have they matured enough physically to control their bladder and bowel movements for at least a couple of hours at a time?
- Second, have they developed an interest in staying dry and clean?
- Third, have they developed an interest in the toilet and have a basic understanding of what it is used for?
- Forth, are they able to communicate their need to go potty in some way, either verbally or behaviorally. And are you able to communicate your desires to them in a way they can understand. This might require some simple vocabulary lessons for the child. Simple words like poop, pee, potty, etc.
When you start seeing these indicators, it might be time to begin thinking of potty training.
Before potty training, keep a ledger
One thing you might want to do prior to potty training is keep a ledger of when he or she goes potty. In other words, keep track of when they go potty. How long after eating or drinking before they need to go. How often do they go, and when? Look for a pattern. If you see that your child consistently goes a half hour after meals, or they go at certain intervals, use this knowledge when potty training your child. The objective is to get them to the potty when they actually need to go, and so create a link in their minds between their having to go and going to the potty.
Like any job, potty training requires the right tools
OK. So now your child is ready for potty training. The tools you will use to potty train your ADHD child is the same you would use to potty train any other child. Namely, a potty chair or seat reducer, a step stool, pull-ups, underwear, etc., along with lots of perseverance and patience.
If you are using a potty chair it needs to be low enough so that your child’s feet reach the floor. If you are using a seat-reducer, which is placed over the adult seat on a regular toilet, the child will need a step stool to allow him or her to get up on it and to serve as a foot-rest once they are seated.
The same step stool or another one will be needed to allow the child to reach the sink for hand washing.
As for clothing, they will need something that can be pulled down quickly. In other words, nothing with draw strings, buttons, zippers, etc. You may begin by using pull-ups and in time as they progress in their training graduating to underwear.
Start by getting the child used to sitting on the potty
With an ADAD child this might not be as easy as you might wish, as such children tend to be too active to sit for long in one place. They want to wiggle and squirm and get up and go. Your challenge will be to keep the child focused on something they like long enough for them to go potty. So, keep note of what kind of things they like to do that will keep them sitting in one place for a few minutes that they can also do while sitting on the potty.
In the beginning take them to the potty about 15 or 20 minutes after they have eaten, and maybe at 90 minutes to 2 hours intervals through the day. If you have kept a ledger of their potty habits use that to determine how long you should go before taking them to the potty.
Be prepared for accidents – They are going to happen
Be sure to communicate to your child what the potty is for and what you are expecting of them. But just be aware that in the beginning going potty is going to be somewhat hit-and-miss. Accidents are going to happen. Be prepared for them.
When an accident happens, do not make a big fuss over it. Instead, express your confidence that they will do better next time. Try to build up their confidence.
When your child is too distracted or too hyper-focused to go potty
It is not unusual for an ADHD child to become so distracted or so absorbed in some interesting activity that they ignore their need to go. There are two ways you can deal with this situation.
The first is to give the child some kind of reminder. This might take the form of an alarm going off at set interval to remind them to go to the potty.
The second is a form of negative feedback. Let me explain what I mean by that. An ADHD child may become so hyper-focused on some activity they are doing that they do not want to stop long enough to go potty, and so will ignore their need to go.
The negative feedback takes the form of a time-out. The purpose is to teach the child that the fastest way for them to get back to doing whatever they find so interesting is to take the two or three of minutes needed to go potty. Otherwise, with the time-out imposed on them it will take much longer, say five or ten minutes, to get back to that activity. And hopefully they will figure out that it is faster to go potty than to not go potty when they need to.
Reward your child for potty success
As with all children rewards for successfully going potty can make the potty training more appealing to them and give them additional motivation to make it to the potty in time.
The reward should be something they desire, and which is reserved exclusively for potty success. It should also be something they cannot get any other way.
This reward can be a special snack or something as simple as a sticker on a chart. Whatever the reward is, it should, to have the greatest impact, always be given immediately after potty success.
Be sure to teach proper hygiene
Teaching proper hygiene from the very beginning of the potty training process is very important.
Teach them how to properly wipe themselves. With girls, they should be taught to wipe from front to back to ward off possible infection by the spread of germs.
Let them pick out a special soft-soap for themselves and teach them how to properly wash their hands after going potty. This is a habit that will ward many a sick day in their future life.
Graduate from diapers, to pull-ups to underwear
Go ahead, make a big deal with each advance. Celebrate with your child each step forward to potty independence. Let them know with every advanced step how proud you are of them.