By age 4, many kids are ready to get out of diapers and on to the potty, but 4-year-old children with sensory issues have unique challenges that must be addressed. Your sensory-avoidant child may be frightened of the potty, which, in the world of a sensory-shy 4-year-old, is awfully big and noisy. The sensory-seeking child may be too busy climbing trees and tumbling off the couch to even notice that he’s wet. Regardless of the particular sensory issues, it is possible to potty train a 4-year-old with sensory issues.
Identify your child’s particular sensory issues. If she doesn’t seem to be bothered by a soiled diaper, dirty hands or a messy face, she’s probably sensory-seeking. If she dislikes certain textures, smells or foods and wants to be changed as soon as her diaper gets wet or dirty, she’s most likely sensory-avoidant. Some kids may be a combination of seeking and avoidant, so address each issue individually.
Introduce your child to the potty. Children with sensory issues may be uncomfortable sitting high up on the adult toilet, and a sensory-seeking child may leap off mid-tinkle and get hurt, so a potty chair is usually a good idea. These can be found at most discount and baby supply stores and come in a variety of styles. Four-year-old children can be quite independent, so let your child help choose his own potty, even sitting on it in the store — fully clothed, of course — to make sure it’s comfortable for him. This lets him know that he has some control over the process. Once the potty chair is home, set it up in the bathroom and let your child sit on it and investigate it before you try to get him to use it.