Tackling Trip Training Early Was the Right Move for Me

Sabrina L. Johnson avatar

by Sabrina L. Johnson |

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Trip training is useful to help special needs children establish a toileting routine. With trip training, the child develops the ability to go to the bathroom by being taken at certain times during the day.

This is the method we began using for our then-4-year-old Angel, Juliana, shortly after I read an article about a special needs parent like me who had success with the technique.

Double the trouble

At the time, I was still fuzzy about trip training. With two toddlers, I had no idea how I would pull it off.

What stood out to me in the article was how long it had taken the writer to get her son on a good schedule, a crazy amount of time — like 10 years. She said she started the process when her son was older and regretted waiting so long.

I thought initially that 10 years was an insane amount of time to pull off this task, but it does make sense since every child learns at a different pace. It also makes sense to give your kiddo plenty of time to master it. Reading that article helped me realize that delaying trip training — whether I was ready or not — was not a good idea.

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Before starting with Juliana, I worked to get my then-3-year-old daughter, Jessa, on a schedule. Once we got going, we started out with trips after meals and whenever she drank something. When she was wet, I made a note. Eventually, the trips got further apart.

Our trip training routine has been steadily improving over the past seven years. In the mornings, Juliana is on a two-hour schedule, but in the afternoons, we switch to around 1.5 hours. Accidents for her are rare, but they’re what prompted the next level of training.

Getting better with time

A few years ago, Juliana’s teacher felt she was ready to switch from pullup diapers to underwear at school. I was nervous, but we made the step forward and shortly after that transition something really awesome happened.

Juliana kicked her trip training up a notch and started patting her bottom when she needed to head to the bathroom. It took some time to figure out what she was trying to indicate. But what a success!

Now that she is becoming more skilled with the talker on her iPad, Juliana can say when she needs the bathroom. Since Angels are considered nonverbal, an augmentative and alternative communication device gives them the ability to communicate. She uses her iPad to select her choices.

Sometimes, it has looked as if she is randomly selecting the bathroom button. But once I have realized that she really had to go, I am so proud of her for letting me know. I learned the hard way that she wasn’t selecting the bathroom button just for fun.

trip training | Angelman Syndrome News | Juliana's uses an iPad as an alternative and augmentative communication device

Using the talker on her iPad, Juliana can say bathroom by touching the icon. (Photo by Sabrina L. Johnson)

I cannot say enough about the impact early trip training has had on our lives. It gives me such freedom when we are out and about. I don’t worry that Juliana might be wet. There’s no need to wrestle with a pullup, or find a place for changing.

I manage most trips around Juliana’s bathroom schedule. When I can’t, we simply head to the handicap stall for her next bathroom break. There is also an obvious financial benefit to trip training. With Juliana on a schedule and wearing panties, she needs fewer pullups. When we transitioned her to underwear during the day, it felt like I got a bonus.

There’s an app for that

While we still have some goals to tackle with trip training, we’ve come so far. After Juliana got on a schedule, I quit tracking all of her trips. However, I still track her bowel movements that help alert me to constipation problems.

Early on, I tried a few potty training apps, but they didn’t quite work the way I needed for tracking and reminders. Now, we simply use the timer feature on our Amazon Alexa. Bathroom break times are announced on our phones and our devices throughout the house. Instead of trying to use an app for tracking data, I simply use the note feature on my iPhone. I’ve done it this way since 2018 and it still works well.

Have I found some random wet spots around our house every now and then? Heck, yeah. To minimize accidents, Juliana wears a pullup when she’s home. But even when she is in one, we stay on her schedule. Now that she has a routine, it’s pretty easy to maintain.

Getting her to this point has been easier than I first imagined. And I’m so proud of her mastery of such an important life skill. I thought it was crazy that it might take 10 years for trip training. Now, I get it. Every child is different and developmental delays can make the process more challenging to learn.

But even if it had taken 10 years, it would still have been worth it.

Note: Angelman Syndrome News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical 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. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Angelman Syndrome News, or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Angelman syndrome.


Loi walraven avatar

Loi walraven

Do you have any help in potty training an angel? She is now 6. Any help would be appreciated

Sabrina L. Johnson avatar

Sabrina L. Johnson

Hello Lori--I'll try not to overwhelm you while also trying to be helpful:).

Pick a day when you can be home. Take her to the bathroom after every meal and just sit for a few minutes each time. You can also do it after she drinks something. If you take her and she's already wet, make a note of the time.

Each time you take her to the bathroom, keep a record of whether she goes or not. If she goes, make a big deal of it and provide a small reward.

Then repeat the process all over again. And again. Eventually, her little system will get the hang of the pattern, and one day when you sit her down she will go!

When she masters this part, you can use your notes to figure out how far apart she may need to go. After this, you're on auto-pilot by repeating the process over and over again. Eventually, you'll be able to spread the trips out.

I do hope this helps in some way. Please check back in to let me know how it goes.


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