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EC + Down Syndrome: The secret to toilet training a special needs child with great success – Down Syndrome potty training alternatives

EC + downsyndrome

Today, we're going to talk about practicing elimination communication with a special needs child, and more specifically, I'm going to offer some advice and techniques for doing Elimination Communication with a baby who has Down Syndrome. 

If you are a parent of a special needs child, did you know that you don't have to go the prescribed route of delayed toilet training and extended diaper usage?

According to the CDC, 1in 700 babies have Down Syndrome. Lately, parents and caregivers of children with Down Syndrome have been questioning the status quo and experiencing more and more success with EC, typically choosing to potty their babies soon after they return home from the hospital.

ECing a baby with Down Syndrome has benefits that extend far beyond getting out of diapers 50% sooner than the average age of 5-6 years we’ll cover those extended benefits, some techniques you can use immediately, and we will share some encouraging success stories!

We will cover:

  • How motor development delays might impact EC
  • Why waiting for traditional signs of readiness might backfire
  • Some of the benefits elimination communication offers special needs children
  • How EC can help with the development of other communication skills
  • How to set up your bathroom to aid independence
  • At what age to use which of my books on EC and potty training with a child who has Down Syndrome
  • A few success stories
  • A few questions from parents

Links and other resources mentioned today:

Download the Transcript

If you can't listen to this episode right now (um, sleeping baby!?) and read the transcript here:

Transcript download: EC + Down Syndrome

Watch the Video Version

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Thanks for Listening!

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Do you have experience practicing elimination communication or early potty training with a child with Down Syndrome? Do you have any ideas or tips to add? Please leave a comment below!

I look forward to chatting with you in the comments.

xx Andrea

Andrea Olson

About Andrea Olson

I'm Andrea and I spend most of my time with my 6 children (all under 12 yo) and the rest of my time teaching other new parents how to do Elimination Communication with their 0-18 month babies. I love what I do and try to make a difference in one baby or parent's life every single day. (And I love, love, love, mango gelato.)


  1. Avatar Ulrike Grote on October 8, 2019 at 7:02 am

    Dear Andrea, thank you so much for covering that topic. It is so nice to hear that there are others out there in a similar situation. When our little boy was born last year and diagnosed with DS I started searching the web for EC with babies with DS and there was close to NOTHING out there! I have been doing EC with my other two boys, number two from birth, and I simply could not imagine going back to full time diapers just because of the diagnosis. So we just went ahead and started EC when out of the hospital. By now he is 16 months old and I can tell the difference to my second who was basically diaper free at 18 months. Things will take longer (he is quite delayed physically) but EC works pretty well. We have almost no number two diapers and we catch a couple of pees a day mainly during standard situations/timing. Far from all but that is not the goal. While he shows very little interest and almost no signs when he needs to use the potty, I can still see some development in his bladder capacity and his capacity to hold, while e.g. being carried in a wrap. So we just continue and hope that diapering him full time while in kindergarten will not interfere with EC at home. As a little advice regarding the low muscle tone many babies/children with DS experience, it helped us a lot to use a portable tiny potty (top hat potty) that we put between our legs to sit him on, instead of holding over the toilet/sink which was uncomfortable for him as it gave way too little support. We still use it with great success as he can still not sit by himself.

  2. Avatar Danielle on October 15, 2019 at 5:00 pm

    This is so great. Thank you Andrea for talking about this super-important topic and getting this info out there to so many families who need and want it!

  3. Thanks for this podcast! Wonderful! I wanted to add another book resource. It is a US based book, written just a few years ago now for natural movement development. It is quite a unique resource, called On the Way to Walking by Lenore Grubinger. Many, many pictures, written by a craniosacral therapist & Infant development specialist. And there are many pictures of my kids in there! Lenore helped both my kids throughout babyhood & childhood. I do not receive any royalties for telling you about this book. It is just so important, that I want people to know about it!

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on October 24, 2019 at 2:41 am

      You’re welcome! And thank you for the recommendation! xx Andrea

  4. Avatar Mariana on November 19, 2019 at 10:15 pm

    Dear Andrea I contacted you some months ago and read your book ( 0-36 months) my daughter is almost 4 years old and basically she does 95% of her bowel movements in the potty , she has been doing it for a while. She goes pee every time I put her but probably what I am missing is using the cotton panties I did use them for few days but it was very often that she wet them. She is using sign language and talks a little bit. At night time I put her in the potty right before she goes to bed but she requests at least 2 or 3 times more before she falls sleep. Sorry for so much information but I feel a little bit lost, because I think that we had mastered half of the process but we still have ways to go in the rest. Thank you so much

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on November 24, 2019 at 8:50 pm

      Hi Mariana! Make sure to have her be responsible for cleaning up accidents. Not as punishment, just doing what needs done. Wiping up, putting wet/soiled clothes in the hamper, getting dry, etc. You can try limiting fluids 2 hours before bed to help reduce potty trips. If it continues, most likely she is using it to delay bedtime. If that’s the case you can do “bedtime tickets”. Make some tickets, how many is up to you but lets say three. She can turn tickets in for an extra potty trip, tiny sip of water, tucked in, etc. Once she’s out of tickets then no more trips. Keep up the awesome work! It will all come together. xx Andrea

  5. Avatar Kimberly henning on November 15, 2020 at 1:06 pm

    I stumbled upon your website searching for helpful tips to potty train my toddler who happens to have Down syndrome. You seem very educated. With that said, please do not refer to our children as “downs babies” or “Down syndrome babies.” It is extremely offensive. They are people first. My daughter is a person who has Down syndrome. Not a “downs baby”. Her diagnosis does not define her and I hope my message resonates. thank you.

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on November 15, 2020 at 4:41 pm

      Hi Kimberly! Thank you for your perspective. I did a lot of research before settling on using those terms. There is currently a movement by those with disabilities to use label first instead of person first. Ultimately it is the choice of those with a disability, when your child is older they will be able to tell you their preference. Best of luck with potty training! xx Andrea

  6. Avatar Anthony Cerullo on April 22, 2022 at 5:07 am

    Great achievement! Toilet training works best when parents of children with special needs have access to the guidance, instruction, and encouragement of their pediatrician, other trained professionals, or support groups.

  7. Avatar JD Rowe Financial on November 18, 2022 at 8:29 am

    These alternatives are really working. Thanks for sharing!

    • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on November 20, 2022 at 11:04 pm

      Thank you so much for tuning in!

  8. Avatar Jen on November 6, 2023 at 1:10 am

    My big girl was diaper free by 10 months, so when I was surprised at birth with a baby with DS, it was pretty shocking. I asked her pediatrician if I could do EC with her. He looked at me like I was an idiot and he said, “I don’t know, ask her!” From that moment forward, I was able to view my baby as an individual and not a diagnosis. So. . . we started at 16 days old. She’s 9 months old now and eliminates almost exclusively in the toilet. I haven’t changed a poopy diaper since 6 weeks old and just in the last three days, I’ve had to throw diapers away only because they were falling apart and not because she peed in them.

    She has become super communicative about other things, which we attribute to being “heard” when communicating that she needs to eliminate – its very exciting. She pees upon command, and sometimes just yells when she’s about to eliminate. Need to figure out a better way to have her communicate it clearly so I’m not just taking her when I know she’s going to have to go or having her pee on command (which she does, but that’s not sustainable forever, obviously). Excited to learn more about it specifically on this podcast!

    • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on November 29, 2023 at 8:14 pm

      So happy to have you in the community!!!

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