Tackling travel training early was the right move for me

Travel training is helpful in helping children with special needs establish a toilet routine. With travel training, the child develops the ability to go to the bathroom by being taken at certain times of the day.

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

double the problem

At the time, I was still fuzzy about travel training. With two toddlers, I didn’t know how I was going to manage.

What struck me about the article was how long it took the writer for his son to have a good schedule, a crazy time – like 10 years. She said she started the process when her son was older and she regretted waiting so long.

I originally thought 10 years was an insane amount of time to complete this task, but it makes sense since every child learns at a different pace. It also makes sense to give your child plenty of time to master it. Reading this article helped me realize that delaying travel training – whether I was ready or not – was not a good idea.

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Before I started with Juliana, I worked to get my 3 year old daughter, Jessa, to stick to a schedule. Once we started, we started with trips after meals and whenever she drank something. When she was wet, I made a note. Eventually, the trips became less frequent.

Our travel training routine has steadily improved over the past seven years. In the mornings Juliana has a two hour schedule, but in the afternoons we shift to around 1.5 hours. Accidents for her are rare, but that’s what pushed her to take her to the next level of training.

Improves over time

A few years ago, Juliana’s teacher sensed that she was ready to switch from pull-up diapers to underwear at school. I was nervous, but we took a step forward and shortly after that transition, something really awesome happened.

Juliana kicked her travel workout up a notch and started patting her ass when she needed to go to the bathroom. It took a while to figure out what she was trying to indicate. But what a success!

Now that she has better command of the speaker on her iPad, Juliana can tell when she needs to go to the bathroom. Since angels are considered non-verbal, an augmentative and alternative communication device gives them the ability to communicate. She uses her iPad to select her choices.

Sometimes it sounded like she was randomly selecting the bathroom button. But once I realized she really had to go, I’m so proud of her for letting me know. I learned the hard way that she didn’t select the bathroom button just for fun.

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

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

I can’t say enough about the impact the early journey training has had on our lives. It gives me such freedom when we’re on the go. I’m not worried about Juliana getting wet. There’s no need to struggle with a pull-up or find a place to change.

I manage most trips around Juliana’s bathroom schedule. When I can’t, we just head to the disabled cabin for his next bathroom break. Travel training also has a clear financial benefit. With Juliana on a schedule and wearing panties, she needs fewer pull-ups. When we switched it to underwear during the day, I felt like I got a bonus.

There is an application for that

Although we still have goals to achieve with travel training, we have come a long way. After Juliana got a schedule, I stopped following all her travels. However, I always monitor his bowel movements, which helps alert me to constipation issues.

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

Did I occasionally find damp places around our house? Shit, yeah. To minimize accidents, Juliana wears a pull-up when she is at home. But even when she is in one, we respect her schedule. Now that she has a routine, it’s pretty easy to maintain.

Getting it to this point has been easier than I initially imagined. And I’m so proud of her mastery of such an important life skill. I thought it was crazy that it could take 10 years for travel training. Now I understand. Every child is different and developmental delays can make the process harder to learn.

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

To note: Angelman Syndrome News is strictly a disease news and information site. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of anything you 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 Angelman Syndrome issues.

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