Toilet Training Children with Cerebral Palsy

Toilet training is an important yet sometimes, difficult part of childhood. As you can imagine, it’s even harder teaching a child with cerebral palsy because these tough lessons are compounded with special circumstances, a lack of cooperation from muscular coordination, and sometimes intellectual disabilities. It can be done, however, and here are a few tips on how to toilet train your child with cerebral palsy.

When to Start Toilet Training

A urologist can help you determine if your child has achieved urinary continence, the act of controlling the release of the bladder. If a child with a more mild form of cerebral palsy can achieve urinary continence by age 3, potty training can be attempted at that age, but it’s important to work with your child’s pediatrician when determining an appropriate age to start trying. If your child struggles with urinary continence, the urologist can recommend a treatment program that involves exercises, surgery, or medication so that he or she can still manage the condition.

Signs that your child is ready for toilet training include:

  • Awareness of when they’ve had an “accident”
  • Going a few hours at a time without soiling or wetting themselves
  • Letting you know they want to “potty”
  • Capable of sitting on the toilet (with assistance if needed)

If, however, your child has a more severe form of the disability and does not achieve urinary continence by age 8 and/or doesn’t show any of the aforementioned signs, statistics reflect that continence may never happen. Different accommodations for your child (such as external collection devices, diapers, etc.) may be arranged at this point.

Toilet Seats and Chairs

There are an array of specialized toilet seats designed the help children with cerebral palsy. For example, many come with adjustable straps, safety rails, and soft cushioning to help prevent accidents such as slipping and falling. You can generally find specialized toilet seats at local pharmacies, but if not, a pediatrician should be able to let you know where you can obtain one.

For more information, refer to our article Toilet Chairs for Children with Cerebral Palsy.


Potty training is about changing habits. There may still be an occasion when the child has an accident or when a special circumstance arose and they got distracted or surprised, but generally potty training is about creating a routine for the day and sticking to it.

Routines and habits are very important for all children to achieve so that they can focus more on learning than on the change in the daily schedule. Keep a daily routine so that your child can sense the right pacing for about when he or she regularly uses the restroom.

Independence is Important

When a child learns to be potty trained, he or she has more choices than a child that isn’t. For instance, if your child is potty trained, he or she can start going to school, or go to a friend’s house for a play date. This kind of independence will make your child a much happier individual.

Underlying Medical Issues

It’s important to note that children with cerebral palsy may have suffer medical issues that prevent them from toilet training successfully, including bladder control problems, urinary incontinence, and bowel issues. These problems cannot usually be helped without medical intervention, and there may be several occasions in which the child doesn’t make it to the toilet in time. As mentioned earlier, in some instances, urinary incontinence may last a lifetime.