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Medical Reasons for Late Potty Training

by Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell, studioD

Looking into possible physical causes should be first and foremost when trying to figure out why your toddler or preschooler is having trouble getting the hang of potty training. A number of medical conditions and physical disabilities can impair a young child's ability to learn to use the toilet in a timely manner, explains HealthyChildren.org, a website published by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Cerebral Palsy

Toddlers and preschoolers with cerebral palsy not only lag behind in bladder control development, they may have inadequate bladder awareness to start potty training at the typical age of 2 or 3, explains the AAP. Cerebral palsy is a cluster of disorders that can involve nervous system and brain functions. A child with cerebral palsy will need assistance to catch on to the idea that she needs to go. Anxious fidgeting or grabbing her genitals are signs that she needs to use the toilet.

Spina Bifida, Spinal Cord Injury and Spinal Tumors

A type of spina bifida known as myelomeningocele can cause bowel and bladder problems and interfere with normal toilet training. Spina bifida is part of a group of birth defects referred to as neural tube defects. Most kids with spina bifida, spinal cord injuries and spinal tumors can never become fully toilet trained since they don’t develop an awareness of when they need to go. They can, however, learn to remove urine through a catheter and go to the bathroom for bowel movements.

Visual and Hearing Impairments

Visual problems in young children can make toilet training difficult. Since visually impaired little ones are unable to watch others use the toilet, they are forced to learn by verbal instruction rather than imitation. Waiting until a visual challenged child is 3 or 4 years old can make the potty training process a little easier since she'll have the cognitive ability to understand your commode coaching. Hearing impaired tykes may not find potty training particularly challenging. The level of difficulty will depend on how effectively they communicate. A child who has mastered sign language can use both visual observation and explanations to learn how to use the toilet. Children with hearing problems who don't understand signals and simple signs may not be ready for toilet training until they are a little older. Using visual aids such as picture books about potty training may help.

Developmental and Behavioral Disorders

Children with developmental or behavioral issues may find toilet training especially difficult. Autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD are among the conditions that may slow the potty training process. Kids with ADHD generally find it hard to adjust to changes in routine -- in this case, from wearing diapers to using the toilet. In addition, autistic kids may be extremely sensitive to touch and get upset when their clothes are pulled on and off throughout the day that's part and parcel to the potty training process. Toilet training can be successful in most kids with autism and ADHD but requires a great deal of patience, as it can take at least a year.

About the Author

Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell is a broadcast journalist who began writing professionally in 1980. Her writing focuses on parenting and health, and has appeared in “Spirituality & Health Magazine" and “Essential Wellness.” Hellesvig-Gaskell has worked with autistic children at the Fraser School in Minneapolis and as a child care assistant for toddlers and preschoolers at the International School of Minnesota, Eden Prairie.

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