Choosing the Right Path: A Comprehensive Guide to Potty Training in 2023

Choosing the Right Path: A Comprehensive Guide to Potty Training in 2023
Written by:
Michelle D. Swaney
January 30, 2024

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Choosing the Right Path: A Comprehensive Guide to Potty Training in 2023

Potty training is a significant developmental milestone in every child's life, and parents often find themselves facing oh-so-many choices and challenges along the way. Let’s talk through some of the available options for potty training. We’ll help you gather info to make a starting decision on what method you’d like to use in order to make a smoother transition from diapers-to-flush

If you want to get straight to the options, scroll down, but here are a few true stories to get you thinking. 

STORY 1: Sam’s Journey to Potty Training

Once upon a time in a land called the United States of America there was a mother named, let’s call her, Samantha. Sam had tried “everything” to potty train her 2 1/2-year-old.

That hashtag #pottytraining had become her new social media best friend.

She was on her third month of potty training and she had tried it all and was utterly exhausted. Every time she got up the motivation to start again, it felt like nothing worked.

So, she gave up and took a break for a few days and fully put her little one back into diapers in order to “recover” from the days of accidents all over the kitchen, the carpet, and most recently the couch. Good heavens…the couch. She was over it.

She decided she’ll just “wait until her child is ready.” At age 3 she went in for a doctor’s appointment and everything was fine with her child, so she decided to wait even longer. In fact, she was getting used  to using diapers and so was her child, so much so that whenever mom now talked about getting rid of her child’s diapers her child would wail out in disagreement. She had definitely found her, “No!” voice at this point!

If Sam tried to take off her child’s diapers the child would throw a fit, full of kicking and screaming on the ground about it being “her” diaper. Everything felt like an argument, but Sam waited and waited hoping a magical day would come when her child looked “ready enough” to start using the toilet. That day came, but not as expected.

It came in the form of a letter at age 4 ½ that her child would be asked to stay home from school if she wasn’t potty trained by the next week. She searched around social media and ran across #pottyschool. That is when she reached out for help with The Potty School.

We put her daughter in the category of “neuro-typical potty training” below. She decided that they wanted a little more intensive help then just a phone call/Zoom call - so they booked a Virtual Home Consultation, where she could develop a plan the night ahead, and then ask questions in real time.

As follow-up she also booked a Zoom video call with the same consultant. Her school was as surprised as she was that her daughter was now not only using the toilet, but doing so happily.

STORY 2: Preparing in Advance for Elimination Communication: James’ Story of Adoption

Or, here’s another story. Let’s call this dad James. James was a very proactive parent. He was adopting and it had been a long point to even get here.

While waiting, he knew there was work to be done in developing a parenting plan. Even before the child hit his arms, he knew he wanted to provide as much as he could, and as fully as he could from day one. He wanted to be involved in as many ways as possible to build a bond with his new child, afterall, he was going to be a daddy!

He contacted the potty school as soon as his adoption application was approved. We started working with him well before his child even arrived. By the time his first child came, he had a plan. It was elimination communication if the child was under 18 months, and potty training if the child was 18 months or over.

The child who was placed with him was 15 months old, so from day one elimination communication was what was the norm in their household, and he was supported with phone/Zoom consults with The Potty School along the way. James was ecstatic that his first adopted was fully out of diapers before his second placement came to his home.

This time, it was an older child, around 24-months, so he wanted some help forming a new plan better catered to an older child, but still with his parenting values at heart, and ideally with the same consultant.

We were also happy to work with James again, and then again for his third child, who had special needs. This special needs child, and now special needs family needed a whole different plan of action and response and we worked alongside him to create that and support their growing family.

STORY 3: Anna’s Story of Postponed Hope for Her Child with ASD (special needs)

A third case is, shall we say Anna. Anna was the mother of a special needs child. He was deemed a “low functioning child who had ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder)”.

Anna’s child was 10 years-old at the time of contacting The Potty School. He had just been recommend to move to a NPS (non-public school) because he wasn’t able to be in a classroom with neuro-typical children any longer.

She contacted The Potty School as a last ditch effort. (We don’t mind being people’s last-ditch efforts :)). There felt like nothing else to do. The school had taken potty training off of her son’s IEP because they felt like it was no longer an attainable goal.

Anna disagreed, but was tired of fighting with the school about things she thought her son was capable of doing, but the school didn’t have the resources to help him get to. She knew he couldn’t be potty trained overnight, but she felt like there had to be some progress to be made and she thought that her son was capable of more than what school aides had taught him.

At a loss, she was up Googling one night at 2am and typed in “potty training special needs consultant” and ran across The Potty School. She wondered if it was already too late. The school district has given up on him, should she? All these years there were goals and priorities that trumped potty training, she felt like a “bad mom” for letting this slip through the cracks. (Though we worked with her to encourage he to know that when there are other more pressing concerns than potty training, that doesn't make you "bad" at anything!)

She felt guilt for not asking for outside help earlier. But, with swift fingers at the keyboard, she booked a home consult and hoped for the best. Little did she know that her child would be pooping in the toilet for the very first time within 4-hours of The Potty School’s arrival. It was life-changing for her, her son, and his caregivers - for years to come.

With the above stories in mind, what actually are your choices when it comes to getting that pee and poo in the toilet?

1. Understanding Your Choices:

When it comes to potty training, parents have several choices depending on their child's age, developmental needs, and personal preferences. At The Potty School we also like to include parenting preferences and parenting philosophies, but the below guide will give you a general place to start. Here are the key options to consider:

Option 1: Early Potty Training (0 - 17 months): Elimination Communication:

Elimination Communication, also known as EC, is a natural and eco-friendly method that involves recognizing your baby's cues for elimination. It's an option for parents with infants up to 17 months old. To learn more about Elimination Communication, you may read the article here.

If you want a full overview, we had the honor of being in the Bump’s article, “Elimination Communication: How to “Potty Train” Without Diapers: This early potty training method involves watching baby for cues that they have to go.

We’ve also talked about Elimination Communication in multiple articles including, and and podcasts, including KidStrength4Life.

This is the age-group that Maria Montessori, think of all those Montessori preschools, would suggest starting at. “This is a method of education for young children that stresses the development of a child's own initiative and natural abilities, especially through practical play.” according to Wiki. Random fact about Montessori, she was one of the first women to attend medical school in Italy. 

Option 2: Potty Training (18 months - 5 years):

For neurotypical children between 18 months and 5 years, parents have a range of methods to choose from, including 3-day intensive training, gradual potty training, and scheduled potty breaks. Each approach caters to different parenting styles and child temperaments. If you have a neurotypical child, you may want to read a book about potty training. If you’re going to read one, we do recommend: The Complete Guide to Potty Training: The Step-by-Step Plan with Expert Solutions for Any Mess, by our CEO, Michelle D. Swaney

This is the age-group that the Mayo Clinic recommends starting at, about 18 - 24 months, or later.

Option 3: Special Needs Potty Training (0 - 10 years):

Children with special needs require specialized attention and support during the potty training process. Learn about effective strategies and techniques tailored for children with autism in particular, here.

Special needs can fall into several categories, and this affects the potty training methods that your family uses. Our potty training specialists help families to navigate through which methods align with their families special needs. 

According to California Association of Health and Education Linked Professions JPA, there are 13 categories of special needs, also known as “disability categories” on their site. The Potty School’s potty training specialists/consultants have had the honor of working with families in 12 out of 13 of these categories, excepting traumatic brain injury.

  1. Autism
  2. Deaf-Blindness
  3. Deafness
  4. Emotional Disturbance
  5. Hearing Impairment
  6. Intellectual Disability
  7. Multiple Disabilities
  8. Orthopedic Impairment
  9. Other Health Impairment
  10. Specific Learning Disability (SLD)
  11. Speech Language Impairment
  12. Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
  13. Visual Impairment

2. Defining Your Approach:

Defining what potty training means to you is essential. Is it about complete independence in using the toilet, or are you focusing on specific aspects like daytime training or handling night-time accidents? Understanding your definition will shape your approach and expectations.

3. Seeking Professional Guidance:

Potty training can be a challenging journey, and sometimes, expert guidance is necessary. Consider the benefits of consulting a potty training specialist:

Why Use a Potty Training Specialist?

Potty training specialists offer personalized strategies, evidence-based guidance, and emotional support for both parents and children. They recognize each child's unique readiness cues and provide tailored solutions for a successful potty training experience. Read more about the benefits of working with a potty training specialist here.

Here are the top 3 reasons people hire a potty training specialist, according to our blog, “Can You Pay Someone to Potty Train Your Toddler?

  1. I want to invest in getting my kiddo out of diapers, not just into them. 
  2. Totally Out of My League
  3. Having a Hard Time Keeping Up with Traditional Potty Training
  4. Reduced Stress and Faster Results
  5. Special Needs, Special Care!

Choosing the Right Specialist:

Selecting the right specialist is crucial for a successful potty training journey. Look for certified professionals with experience, compatibility with your parenting values, and excellent communication skills. Check references and testimonials to ensure their effectiveness.

If you’re wondering what a potty training specialist or potty training consultant actually does check-out our article detailing what they do, here.

Or, for those who are ready and would like the help, now…or good heavens wanted it yesterday already! Please book a consult with one of our potty training specialists here. You can choose the type of consultation that best fits your family: Elimination Communication (0-17 months), Potty Training (18 months - 5 years), Special Needs Potty Training (0-10 years).


Potty training is a significant milestone that requires patience, consistency, and understanding. By exploring your options, defining your approach, and seeking expert guidance when needed, you can navigate this journey with confidence. Remember, every child is unique, and finding the right method that suits your family dynamics is the key to a successful potty training experience.

We can help your family figure out the steps to take, or the next step, wherever you’re at on your journey,from diapers-to-flush.

You can choose the type of potty training that best fits your family: Elimination Communication (0-17 months), Potty Training (18 months - 5 years), Special Needs Potty Training (0-10 years).

For more expert tips and personalized guidance on elimination communication, potty training or special needs potty training and to take the first step, or next step towards a smooth and successful potty training journey for your family, learn more about our services either the homepage, or pop on over to Book Now.

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