Let’s Talk About Potty Training

Potty training can be hard, frustrating, and time-consuming. Have you ever felt like you just don’t know where to start? Well, we’re here to introduce you to the lifesaver that is Potty Train MN. We chatted with the founder, Christine Hendrickson, who shared her story, experience, and lots of amazing tips to tackle potty training. Read on to learn more…

Tell me a little about yourself and Potty Train MN.

Hello, my name is Christine Hendrickson. I am a behavior specialist with over 20 years of experience working with numerous special needs individuals in a variety of settings.  

I created Potty Train MN in 2015 after having a discussion with preschool teachers who felt frustrated that parents didn’t take on a more active role in toilet training their child.

They felt like parents just waited for the teachers to get the job done. As I pondered this conversation I began thinking, maybe parents don’t know HOW to potty train their children.  Or maybe they try and don’t feel successful. 

By this time in my career, I had been involved in potty training over a dozen children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.  I came up with the idea of taking all the things I had learned in my personal experiences along with the research that is presented in the field of Behavior Analysis to develop a program that could help parents take on the daunting task of toilet training.

And that was how Potty Train MN started! 

Each year we reach more and more families.  Hearing the success stories from parents who thought their child would never learn this skill keeps me motivated to continue helping families.

What motivated you to create Potty Train MN?

In 2014 I was working in a daycare setting as a 1:1 aide for a young child with Down Syndrome. One day some of the teachers were having a discussion about how challenging potty training could be and how most parents relied on the teachers to teach this skill.  It was then I realized that my experience in potty training children with special needs could help parents who were struggling to teach their children this skill.    

How can Potty Train MN help parents with children with special needs?

Potty Train MN provides a free Readiness Assessment that helps determine if a child is ready to begin toilet training.  If the child is ready to begin, a potty coach will schedule a Parent Workshop session with the parents.  During the Parent Workshop, we work directly with parents to develop an individualized potty plan for their child. The potty coach then develops materials such as a written potty plan, visuals and datasheets for the parent to utilize during potty training.  Parents also get access to a potty coach during their first 30 days of coaching to answer questions and help parents make modifications as needed.  For families that want or need more support we also offer in-home coaching sessions. 

Potty training involves more than just going pee or poop in the toilet.  A toileting routine can have over 15+ steps and require additional skills such as the ability to transition from preferred activities (playing) to less preferred (toileting), being able sit and wait, and also personal awareness.  

We help parents target each step in the routine as a goal.  As the child masters each step, they get closer to mastering the entire toileting routine.  

Toilet training is a skill that for most all children, special needs or not, needs to be taught.                

I often explain it like riding a bike…you wouldn’t just put your child on the bike and give them a push down the hill without explaining or showing them how the bike works, how to push the pedals, and use the handlebars.  

You’d also provide the child with training wheels and safety equipment.  You would run alongside the bike holding onto the back and encouraging them along the way.

Same for toilet training!  You need to teach the skill, provide them with LOTS of encouragement (and rewards), set them up for success as much as you can and stick with it.

What are three (or more) awesome potty training tips you can share with the Joshin community? 

Potty Tip #1: Once the child begins showing readiness signs, start to do toilet related activities such as changing diapers in the bathroom. This helps associate the bathroom with going potty. 

Potty Tip #2: As your child begins to develop their motor skills, have them be an active participant in their diapering routine. You don’t need to do it all FOR them.  Have them help by going to get a new diaper & wipes, push their pants down, pull their pants up, throw the diaper away and even start to learn to wash hands. Starting to teach them some personal responsibility will help when you begin toilet training.  If the thought of having the child help at each diaper change feels overwhelming, start by picking 1-2 times per day and 1-2 “tasks” that the child has to complete.  As the child learns those few tasks you can add more to the routine.  Start small and build from there. 

Potty Tip #3: Work on pre-potty training skills before teaching the larger goals of peeing and pooping in the toilet.  Practice having the child sit on the toilet for short periods of time 1-2 minutes, get them comfortable with sitting on the toilet. Practice hand washing, or dressing skills. Build in these practice times during natural transitions during the day.  For example, when the child wakes up in the morning have them do a practice sit on the toilet when you change them out of their overnight diaper.  Another great time for a practice sit is before a meal.  This is a natural time for hand washing too!  

Potty Tip #4: Avoid having the child sit on the toilet for long periods of time while engaging in a preferred activity such as watching iPad.  You may be inadvertently teaching the child to sit and not produce urination or BM. Highly motivating rewards should be delivered AFTER the child has urinated or had a BM in the toilet.  

Potty Tip #5: Don’t push your child to use the toilet if they are not ready. This can hinder future toilet training opportunities. At the same time, don’t put it off forever. It’s a skill that needs to be taught, find time to teach them this important skill when they are ready. 


For more potty training tips and support: https://pottytrainmn.com/Christine is the founder of Potty Train MN, a program that provides potty training consultation to families. Christine is also the owner and Director of Services at On Track MN, an early intensive developmental and behavioral intervention program providing services to children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and related conditions in the state of Minnesota.   

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