How to potty train with a speech delay!

I have written before about Cohen’s speech delay (Click here to go to my previous blog post). In this post, I go over where our journey began. We knew from the beginning that our story of potty training our 2-year-old was going to be a long one. Essentially we were trying to teach a child that couldn’t speak yet, how to tell me he needed the toilet. First of all, I will start some background information;

What is a speech delay?

Speech delay, also known as alalia, refers to a delay in the development or use of the mechanisms that produce speech”


How common is a speech delay?

According to is as common as 10% amongst pre-school children.

We started at 18 months, which is very early.  I went to Aldi and brought your bog-standard potty. It cost maybe £3 at the most for it and it was nothing fancy. We also made sure to let everyone know we were potty training!

I started off by putting it in the front room for about 6 months, it just sat there. The aim was for him to get used to it being around. I wanted him to know that this wasn’t a punishment. Just after his second birthday, I tried properly teaching him to go on the potty. I stripped him off and gave him lots of weak squash. We explained to him that if he did a wee in the potty, he got a sticker on his chart! I started off by showing him a flashcard of a toilet. This worked well for the first day and then for the rest of the week he continued to wee everywhere. I was persistent to keep trying but I had a newborn. I decided that I couldn’t give him the full attention he needed. 

6 months later I tried again, this time using the Makaton sign for toilet. Like with the flashcard I would use the sign every time we spoke about the toilet. It worked well and after a week or two of being stuck indoors, we managed to make our first outing. I made sure that even if he said he didn’t need to go we would go and try. And when he did go, we stood in the toilet doing our silly dance. By the age of 3 he was all set with weeing on the potty and was in pants. We were still using the potty at this point as he was a little bit unsure about the toilet. However, we did find that after much persistence and reassurance, he finally moved from the potty to the toilet. 

Child sat on a potty  whilst potty training

Next came the harder bit pooing! He had done so well that, I couldn’t understand why he would constantly go in his pants. First I thought it was the sensation of going that he didn’t like. For the last 3 years, he had a nappy on, when he pooed it stayed right where it was. Then I noticed that he would do it and tell us when he had done a poo. Which meant he knew he was doing it.

The time was approaching quickly that we had to apply for his place at school. I was worried that he wouldn’t get into a school, if he still pooed in his pants. I at this point knew he had to have just been being lazy. So I took his pants off. Left his bottom-half naked and told him that he HAD to go for a poo on the toilet. I left the stool and the toilet seat out ready 20 minutes later, he told me he needed to go. I took him up and he did his first proper poo in the toilet! 

Bouncing around we did our happy dance. We ran down and told daddy, called all the grandparents to tell them and that seemed to be it. Since then he has been so excited every time he has had a poo to come down and tell us. Accidents do still happen on the odd occasion. If we think he is being lazy then, we go back to not having pants on for a day.

Soon after, he decided himself one night that he didn’t want to wear a pull up to bed anymore. We left his pants on, put his potty by the bed just in case. However, he has always, taken himself off into the bathroom. 

What can I do to help my child when potty training?

If your child is not speaking yet but is showing signs that they are ready, you could try using flashcards or Makaton as mentioned. These are pretty easy for them to use. 

With the flashcards simply introduce and show it every time you talk to them about using the potty or toilet. This way they will make a link with the photo and the action. This also applies to Makaton accept it is a simple action, done with your hands. See the video below for the English sign for the toilet. 

Let them watch you have a wee, or encourage them to go sit on the potty next to you, doing this shows them that it is safe to do. If you have boys, get them to go in and watch daddy or and older brother when they go. Chid tend to role model from the same-sex parent or sibling.

Do you have any tips for potty training? Please share them in the comments below!

If you liked this post then please check out some of my other posts:

Self care ideas for busy mums!

My birth story -Cohen

Morning routine with two children under 4

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