A Story About Potty Training and Down Syndrome
By Monica Blouin
Signing Time Academy Instructor Monica Blouin, of Lil Miracles Signing Academy, is mom to four year old Madie, a little girl with Down syndrome. Here, Monica shares with us her journey of trials and triumphs as she and Madie work together to potty train.
I have two children. Madie, who has Down syndrome, is 4.5 years old and Jack who is 2.5 years old is typical. I have been trying on and off since Madie was 3 to try to potty train her. It hasn’t gone well. She would scream and cry when she was on the potty. So, I decided to do as much research as possible to figure out how to make potty training work for Madie.
I focused on asking other moms, particularly those that had older children with Down syndrome, “What did you do to get your child to use the potty?” I was looking for an easy solution to make this journey as smooth as possible. Well, I guess you can say that I was warned. This was not going to be easy. While I was offered great advice on techniques and potty motivators, none of it was the SAME advice. Everyone’s experience was a little bit different. One thing was the same though. No matter what actually worked, the process took quite a while for it to work and to ultimately be successful.
So, I did my homework and created a hybrid method that was a combination of other people’s methods along with what I already know about Madie’s personality.
The first technique I tried with Madie was to establish a routine. I had heard that children with Down syndrome have great success with a task once it becomes a routine in their schedule and Madie definitely was a “creature of habit” so to take advantage of this, I picked key times to prompt her to use the potty: First thing in the morning, immediately after meals, right before leaving the house, right after a car ride, right after school, and right before bedtime.
While Madie was on the potty, I sat on a stool near her and we used our sign language to talk about what she was doing. We would sing songs from the Signing Time DVD collection and play silly games to make using the potty a fun experience. And if Madie used the potty properly, we would celebrate like the Cubs won the World Series! Madie always likes it when she makes me laugh or makes me happy. She loves to play games and she loves to celebrate. So we capitalized on that.
Along with the routine, I decided to try the “Reward Method”. This method is simple. Find what motivates your child to do the behavior that you want and present it to them. But, do not let your child have the actual reward until they perform. So, for example if your child loves Elmo, or Tinker Bell, or cookies, show your child the item and then put it up out of reach, but in plain sight of your child’s view. Tell them that they can have the item just as soon as they use the potty. Or you could tell your child that she can have the item when she uses the potty all day with no accidents. This is a great method for a lot of people, but it didn’t work for us. Madie tends not to respond well to a reward system involving stickers or toys. Her only vice is Signing Time DVDs. Day and night, Madie wants to watch Signing Time.
So, you can imagine that when I heard that Signing Time was in production of “Potty Time”, I think I nearly lost my mind with excitement! Could I possibly get this potty training achieved? Could this be the reward item to get Madie to use the potty regularly?
Potty Time was great for us! Madie showed some real improvements after watching Potty Time. She improved during the day and was dry in the mornings now. Baby steps towards our goal, but we still needed more help so we turned to the Potty Watch.
I decided I would need to be responsible for reminding Madie to use the potty at set intervals in order to create a habit of going potty. The Potty Time watch is just the trick that I needed, and it helps both of us. I tend to get lost in work, making phone calls, answering emails and before you know it, Madie has had an accident. So, the watch is the perfect way for me to remind myself to go and ask her if she has to use the potty. I set the watch for 30 minute intervals and I have to say that this little watch has saved me a fortune in diapers and pull-ups already. And, I just love that the watch is big enough for me to wear and it is so cute that I don’t mind wearing a watch that resembles a potty. What a great way to remind ME that it is Potty Time!
At this time, Madie continues to improve with using the potty. Our whole family, our babysitters, and Madie’s teachers work together to help her. Potty training is not easy for a lot of kids or for their parents and for kids with Down syndrome, it takes time, patience and lots of love to work through this journey together. But like any task that is not easy, the rewards are so much more significant with an increase level of excitement when you achieve success. Madie has taught me lot about myself as we journey together and I know that once Madie is 100% potty trained, we both will have a new level of confidence in our abilities to overcome and conquer.
A special thanks to Photography by Angel for the use of her professional portraits!