The "No Pants" Potty Training Method

Get Ready, Get Set ...

Potty Training
Photo by Thinkstock Images/Getty Images

Potty training a child with special needs is an adventure. Are you up for it? This No-Pants Method is what finally worked for my son when he was five years old. We only needed to do it for a few days, and he was trained both day and night. Though I think the techniques we used helped this happen with a minimum of mess, the most important factor was the first one here:

Make sure your child is ready.

No amount of parenting trickery or talent can beat the luck of trying this when your child just happens to be at the right spot developmentally. Read

"Before You Potty Train Your Child"

to be sure your child is really at a stage where he or she can benefit from potty training. If you're certain that it's your child's body that's telling you to start training and not just your therapist or teacher or mother-in-law, continue on.

Set aside a week to focus on absolutely nothing else but potty training.

No school, no work, no playdates, no outings, no visitors, no nothing. This is serious business for your child. Treat it seriously. If possible, choose a week during the summer or a period of warm weather, so that little bare bottom doesn't freeze.

Gather your supplies.

To make this "no pants" method work, you'll need:

  • A portable potty chair
  • A waterproof crib liner
  • A long T-shirt that covers your child’s private parts
  • "Pool shoes" or flip-flops
  • Loose boy’s swim trunks.

Go! (In the Potty, Please)

Child on Potty Chair
Alexandre Normand/Getty Images

At the start of your scheduled week, dress your child in nothing but the long, privates-covering T-shirt. No diapers, no underpants, no pants or skirt, no socks or shoes, just the shirt. Explain to your child that this is going to be his or her outfit for the next few days.

Wherever your child goes, the potty chair and crib liner follow.

If he’s watching TV, he’s sitting on the potty chair. If she’s coloring, you’ve pulled the potty chair up to a coffee table for her. If she’s playing on the floor, she’s sitting on the crib liner. He eats meals at that same low table, or on the floor.

Limit outside play to a private area where your child can continue to go pants-less.

If there’s a safe area of your backyard, you can let him or her run around. If not, it’s indoors and on the crib liner for the duration.

Keep trips away from home short and seldom.

If you absolutely must take your child somewhere -- and try not to, and certainly not for more than a short trip -- add a pair of loose boy’s swim trunks and pool shoes or flip flops to your child’s T-shirt outfit. The idea is to stay away from anything that would be a problem if it got wet. Put the crib liner and maybe a towel or two on your child’s carseat. And get back home fast.

Keep this up for a week, or until your child gets with the potty program, whichever happens first.

If you’re really firm and really consistent, this method should focus your child’s attention on his potty needs.

Assess Your Success

Potty Training
Photo by Steve Wisbauer/Getty Images

The bottom line on potty training children with special needs is that they’ll do it when they’re ready. That readiness may be impacted by physical, developmental, emotional, sensory, and other factors that don’t respond to bribes and threats. When it comes to potty training, kids hold all the cards, and if they won’t or can’t cooperate, it’s almost impossible to make them.

If after a week of trying the No-Pants method, you're not seeing a real improvement in your child's ability to sense the need to go and deliver the goods in the potty, that's a good sign that the time may not be right for training. Pack it in, put the diapers back on, and give everybody a rest. Your child's time will come. For now, take some comfort in these ten advantages to having a non-toilet-trained child. And some pride in knowing that you put your child's unique needs first.

Continue Reading