Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Toilet Training

One of the early clues that Alex had developmental delays was his inability to toilet train as a toddler. In fact, toilet training was a great test of patience and perseverance for us because it took about ten years before Alex could use the bathroom completely independently without any daytime or nighttime accidents. We started working on potty training with him shortly before he turned three, but he was nearly thirteen before he knew when he needed to use the bathroom and was able to stay clean and dry around the clock. Fortunately, his slender build allowed him to wear Goodnights disposable training pants for boys until he was trained because otherwise we would have needed to put him in adult disposable underwear, such as Depends. While parents often reassure other parents by telling them that people never walk down the aisle at their graduation or their wedding carrying a diaper bag, I was beginning to think that Alex could be the exception to that rule. His preschool teacher had added to my concerns by informing me that if children are not potty trained by the age of five, they will never be potty trained. Thankfully, she was mistaken. In the decade that we worked on Alex’s toileting independence, we became adept at changing sheets in the middle of the night, doing lots of his laundry, and using spot remover on the carpets.

The lack of success in potty training was not due to lack of effort or resources on our part. I scoured the Internet for tips and tricks, read every book I could find, and purchased a variety of items I thought would help Alex catch on to using the toilet. I had heard that the technique described in the book Toilet Training in Less Than a Day was useful for special needs children, but their method did not live up to its titled hype for us. Since Alex liked to read books, I thought Once Upon a Potty might help him understand what he needed to do. He even had the deluxe version with the little boy doll and his potty that went along with the book, but Alex had no interest in the book, the doll, or the toy potty, let alone in his own potty. Knowing that Alex enjoyed watching videos, I bought some toilet training videos geared for kids and had great expectations for one made by Duke University Medical Center that garnered rave reviews. While the It’s Potty Time video may inspire some children, Alex wasn’t impressed with it, and I frankly found the “Super Dooper Pooper” song a little creepy myself. The most ingenious device I purchased was a system called the Potty Train which consisted of paper strips similar to feminine panty liners that had strips of foil on the bottom. These adhesive strips attached to the child’s underwear and a small device that activated when wet, playing a song to alert the child and the parent to run to the bathroom. Strangely, the song it played was “Theme from Love Story,” which seemed to upset Alex, who, needless to say, did not get on board with the Potty Train. In addition, we tried various reward systems, let him try to sink Cheerios in the toilet, had him pick out special big boy underpants, bought him various booster seats so that he would feel secure sitting on the toilet, and took him at regular intervals to the bathroom. Basically, nothing worked for him.

After several years and limited progress, I began to suspect that Alex could not make the connection between the sensation of needing to use the bathroom and actually going. I think there were physical issues that prevented his success, but we were able to address them eventually. First, he had problems with yeast overgrowth in his system, which were exacerbated by chelation since the sulfur compound DMSA used to remove heavy metals from the body encourages yeast overgrowth. Shortly before he was toilet trained, his doctor did intense yeast treatment by giving him the oral antifungal Diflucan for a month, which did the trick. In addition, we began giving him twice-weekly injections of the methyl form of vitamin B-12, which helps rid the body of toxins and heals nerve damage. Within just a few short weeks of starting these injections, Alex was completely toilet trained. I suspect that he could finally feel the urge to use the toilet, and he complied by going to the bathroom. About the same time, I was feeling pressure that he was nearly a teenager yet still having toileting accidents. I remember thinking that I needed to stop trying to control the situation and handed it all over to God in prayer. I really think that God answered my prayers and allowed Alex’s body to heal through the Diflucan and B-12 shots so that he could finally have toileting success. Whatever worked, we were thankful that he had finally mastered a task we had struggled with so long. Whenever he walks to the bathroom, does his business, and flushes the toilet, I feel blessed that Alex can use the bathroom by himself without needing any help, reminders, or encouragement from us. I also remember that Alex does things on his own timetable, and we just need to wait until he and God are ready for the right time.

“Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.” Proverbs 16:3


Mom said...

Pam,you managed to make a ten-year period of time that had to be perplexing and frustrating, as well as physically and emotionally draining, sound not only bearable, but even amusing at times. Your experience with marathon toilet training is a wonderful example of how Alex--blessed with two loving parents--continues to learn and develop and become all that God intends him to be.

Pam Byrne said...

Thanks, Mom! After nearly six years of Alex toileting independently, we can look back on those years and laugh. :) I often think about the scripture from Habakkuk about "the appointed time" and how it "will not tarry." I know God's still trying to teach me patience... ;)