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Know your child's developmental level. Most children begin to potty train when they are between 18 months and 3 years old. However, children with special needs may not be physically ready or be developmentally ready to comprehend potty training until they are older. When looking for developmental signs of readiness, pay close attention to whether children are able to follow directions, are cooperative, want to be changed when their diapers are dirty or are able to undress to some extent.
Create a chart of when the child is wet or soiled. This chart is a helpful tool in planning your potty training schedule. Break up the chart by times of day; use markings such as "U" for urinate, "B" for bowel movement and "D" for dry. If your child is in school, ask the teachers to complete the chart to help establish an accurate schedule.
Choose the appropriate potty chair. For children who are not disabled, choose a chair that is inviting and fun. Decorate the chair with stickers or anything that will make it special. If the child is disabled and needs extra assistance with seating, locate an adaptive potty chair that will make this process more accessible.
Begin potty training during happy, stable times. To avoid added stress on the child, avoid beginning potty training during times of family stress or transition. She may have other things going on emotionally, and potty training during these times will be met with resistance and will be frustrating for everyone.
Create a schedule for sitting on the potty. Based on your charting, seat the child on the potty during times that you know he is likely to go to the bathroom. Establish a routine where the child sits on the toilet at the same time every day, even if he is not successful in doing anything.
Explain what you want the child to do on the potty. A child with special needs may need visual as well as verbal instruction about what needs to take place on the potty. If she is soiled prior to sitting, empty the diaper in the potty to show where the fecal matter is supposed to go.
Show encouragement. If you can recognize when the child needs to go to the bathroom, suggest that she go sit on the potty. Do not push the child too hard; some special needs children do not respond well to pressure, and you will only be met with resistance.
Reward progress. As with any child, rewarding behavior is a positive reinforcement and motivator. When the child remains dry for an extended amount of time, adheres to a potty schedule or is successful in using the potty, always give praise for a job well done. You can also reward the child with a sticker, certificate or toy.