New device helps special needs children with potty training

Posted at: 08/16/2013 4:59 PM | Updated at: 08/16/2013 5:20 PM

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A big development for families who have children with autism or other special needs. A new device created in Rochester will make it easier for those children to be potty trained.

It's never easy for any child, but it can be even more challenging for children with autism. That's why a group at the University of Rochester Medical Center created a new tool to help improve their quality of life.

The device was first tested around six years ago. Now a new and improved version will hopefully cut potty training time from months and months for some to just a few weeks.

University of Rochester Associate Professors Dr. Daniel Mruzek and Stephen McAleavey have created a life changing device. Along with several students, they are using technology to help kids with autism learn to use the bathroom.

Stephen McAleavey, Professor of Biomedical Engineering, said, “The ability to sort of carry around this tiny little computer in your pocket with a touch screen really opens up a lot of communication avenues for these kids.”

Here's how it works. When moisture is detected on a pad, a signal is sent to the iPod. That triggers music for the child and an alarm for the parent, letting them know it's time to go. The device then rewards the child in the form of a game, song or picture.

Dr. Daniel Mruzek, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, said, “What we want to do is that when a child uses the toilet successfully that there's a positive consequence. We want that consequence to be positive and we want that consequence to be immediate.”

The professors say the positive reinforcement has shown positive results.

McAleavey said “She would sort of start to poke in the direction of the iPod and you had a sense that she was, something about it was attracting her attention even though it wasn't doing anything.”

And now other families will be able to benefit from this tool. Not just in Rochester, but all over the world.

Dr. Mruzek said, “My expectation would be that potentially this can help an awful lot of families, perhaps the majority of families with children with autism.”

Responses from the children in previous studies have been positive. They have also received a lot of positive feedback from parents.

The professors are conducting another round of testing with 15 other kids. There is no exact release date set right now. The developers also don't know how much it will cost yet either. The professors are hoping they can make it available soon. News10NBC will keep you posted.

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