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Potty Training for Late Talkers

Feb 18, 2020 Unfortunately, potty training takes a lot of time and even more patience. I’m a firm believer that children will use the potty consistently when they are ready, but having a speech delay MAY make it more difficult for your child.

Children learning to use the bathroom also learn the vocabulary associated with potty training. If your toddler has a speech delay, they may not be able to tell you when they have to go or if they’ve already had an accident. 

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It’s important to realize that even though your child may not have the verbal means to tell you when they have to go to the bathroom, they may be giving you subtle non-verbal cues or gestures. It’s important to watch your child and see if they are doing anything consistent when they go to the bathroom. My daughter will do a “pee-pee” dance in a circle when she has to go (she still does this even though she’s been potty trained for 7 months). 

There are a couple tips that I’ll share with you to (hopefully) make potty training a little bit easier! These are more from a mother’s perspective, with some speech therapist tips thrown in!

7 Potty Training Tips for Late Talkers

1. Set a schedule

If you firmly believe your child is ready, then 45 minutes or so after they eat or drink, place them on the potty. Leave them there for 3 minutes and see if they go. If they do . . .

2. Praise them

Make a big deal out of the smallest trickle! Give high fives, tell them they are doing awesome, and show them what they did. Accidents do happen. Try not to be too hard on them. Tell them, calmly that they should go to the bathroom in the toilet, not in their pants. 

3. Rewards can go a long way

We used a sticker chart and skittles for my daughter. When she went to my mother-in-law’s house, she got M&Ms. It made her excited to know she was getting something different in each house.

4. Prepare yourself for the journey

Read some books on the subject and, if all else fails, GOOGLE. Make sure you have tons of underwear, a reward system in place, everyone in the house is on board, and be patient.

5. Make a little chart

If your child can’t tell you “pee” or “poo,” make a little chart. I’m talking one or two pictures; one of the toilet and one of the sink (wash hands). Make sure, when they go, you say “pee” or “poo” so they know what they did.

6. Take them with you, when you go

I know it might sound odd, but I always took Nora with me and, even though he’s a boy, Nicholas goes with me, too. I narrate EVERYTHING I do in the bathroom. I’ll say, Mommy went pee-pee, now mommy is wiping, mommy has to pull up her pants, etc. Don’t forget, it’s more than just the vocabulary words for potty that they need to know. How can you expect them to pull down their pants, if they don’t know what pants are?

7. Let them pick their underwear

Have your child pick out their own underwear. This makes them excited and signals that they are big kids now. 

As someone who just went through this process, it can be daunting. We tried to get our daughter on the toilet at two years old, but she had no idea when she had to go. We decided that she would let us know when she was ready and she totally did. I was only two months postpartum with my son when she suddenly said, “Mommy, I have to go to pee-pee.” I was like, “Well, I guess we are doing this.” 

Good luck and remember, none of us go to kindergarten in pull-ups! Your child will get it! 💪

In addition to these tips, you can download our Speech Blubs app and work on some of our fantastic communication-centered activities.

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The author’s views are entirely his or her own and may not necessarily reflect the views of Blub Blub Inc. All content provided on this website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgement, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

Comments (8)
  • What do I do if I have tried the “no underwear/pull ups/diaper method” and my son now knows how to work pull ups and puts them on even when I won’t put them on him. I will leave him pantless like my pediatrician and the books suggest and he puts them on.He has a speech delay because he is bilingual, and will not say he has to go potty but he can say pee-pee and poo-poo. I don’t know how to get him to verbalize he has to go, or that he even went in his pull up. I don’t know how to proceed to train him. Should I move the potty out of the bathroom? What can I do to make that connection?

    • Hi, Liz. Thank you for your question. First of all – how old is your son? Some children are simply not ready to train and by forcing them, we actually hinder their progress towards using the potty. The first thing I’d suggest is to set a timer for 30 minutes. Every time it goes off, you put him on the toilet. Praise him, even if he does not go! Sometimes, kids are afraid of the potty, so just sitting on it is an accomplishment. Secondly, if he cannot verbalize that he has to go, I would give him a simple chart with pictures that he can point to. Make sure you review this chart with him so that he knows how to use it. You can also use some sort of reinforcement when he goes. My daughter loved sticker charts and every time she went, she got 1 sticker. If she had a bowel movement, she got two stickers. Once she had so many stickers, she got a special prize. When the stickers got old, we gave her skittles. Those are a few things that you can try and see if it helps with his training!

      Stacie Bennett, M.S. CCC-SLP

  • My daughter is 3 years and 3 months and has a speech delay. I always take her to the toilet for “wee” and “poo”. But because of the speech delay she cannot tell me when she needs to go. Please could you suggest ways to train her as I badly want her to in knickers.

    • When children cannot say that they need to go to the bathroom, it can be very frustrating for the parents and the child. What I suggest to parents is that you have her gesture to you when she has to go. You can also create a potty training chart with stickers. This is highly motivating to young kids and they may just reach for the chart to tell you when she has to go. Thirdly, I’d suggest that you check out our blog about potty training; that has more helpful information on how train your child is their speech is delayed! Good luck!

      Stacie Bennett, M.S. CCC-SLP

  • I have a son who has recently been diagnosed with receptive expressive speech delay. We are now working with a speech therapist two days a week. His therapist also suggested enrolling him into daycare. We were excited at first but now we are a bit discouraged. Because of his speech delay he doesn’t say he needs to go to the potty. At home we allow him to roam around without pants or take him every hour. Each day we pick him up from daycare and he has an accident and the teacher expresses that her students all know how to let her know that they need to potty. I have tried numerous times to explain to them that he has speech delay and will not let them know he needs to go. I need help explaining to them his only weakness. How can I help his teacher work with his delay?

    • That sounds incredibly frustrating. I’m disappointed to hear the center’s response of “the other kids let her know they need to use the potty.” Unfortunately, not everyone understands speech and language delays. First thing, try and not get too discouraged. My daughter was fully potty trained and still had accidents at school. If he cannot tell the teacher, I would see if they can take the kids to the bathroom on a schedule – maybe every 1.5. It will be similar to what you do at home and will get him into the routine at school. Thirdly, you can start to implement a potty chart at home. Instead of letting him roam around without pants, have him point to a very simple chart that has a toilet on it when he has the urge to go. Once he is consistent, copy this chart and drop it off to the school. The more consistency, the better. Finally, I’d seriously consider talking to the director at the school. Get a copy of what their bathroom/school schedule looks like. Reiterate that your child has a communication delay and needs the teacher to be patient and understanding.

      Stacie Bennett, M.S. CCC-SLP

  • My son has a speech delay and is 3.5 years old. He is pee-potty trained but will not go to the potty when he has to poop, nor will be communicate to us that he has to go. It is May and he is enrolled in Preschool in August, which requires him to be fully potty-trained. We have not been making any progress with this and need some guidance/tricks/anything! He gets very excited when he pees on the potty, and he does not tell us he is going, he goes in on his own and comes out when he is finished peeing.

    • Hi Katie. Potty training can be very frustrating for us as parents, and also the child. It’s great that he can pee on the potty, but pooping is a whole other ball game. Does he give you any indication when he has to go #2? Does he run and hide? Does he say he’s afraid of the potty? I also recommend putting a cheerio or fruit loop in there and tell them that they have to sink it. I’ve also found, if they are afraid to go, putting a picture of something they like on the inside of the toilet lid (e.g Mickey Mouse) to make it more “friendly.”
      Stacie Bennett, M.S. CCC-SLP

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