Potty Training a Child With Down Syndrome

Can a toddler with Down syndrome be taught to use the toilet? Given my son's special developmental and mental challenges, I'm not sure whether he has the capacity to understand what I'm asking of him. I'd really appreciate any practical advice you might be able to offer.

The age at which children are ready to be toilet trained varies. Some (though this is rare) can be trained as early as eighteen months, whereas others may wait until they’re five or six years old. These numbers, of course, represent the extreme limits of the age range. The average age for potty training lies somewhere between three and five years.

How does a condition like Down syndrome impact this process? Only in the way that it can be expected to impact any other aspect of a child’s life. It’s reasonable to suppose that a boy or girl with a developmental delay will progress more slowly than other kids in most areas. As a result, he or she may not experience success in toilet training until later than the “average” kid. But this isn’t necessarily a hard-and-fast rule.

In a general sense, research clearly shows that positive reinforcement helps to speed toilet training in children at every point along this spectrum. Negative comments or punishment, on the other hand, actually delay the process and may harm a parent’s relationship with their child and possibly damage his self-image.

If you’d like to discuss this or any other concern related to the challenge of raising a Down syndrome child, please feel free to call Focus on the Family’s Counseling department.


Focus on the Family Complete Guide to Baby & Child Care

Special Needs Children: How the Church Can Help

John Rosemond: Parenting with Love and Leadership

National Down Syndrome Society

Need Project, Inc.

Joni and Friends

Potty Training

Behaviors and Strategies for 0-3 Year-Olds

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