If your child is going to school for the first time, or attending a new school, are they happy to use the toilets? Getting to go when you need is vital to a child having a positive experience at school yet a survey of children with continence problems by ERIC*, the childhood continence charity, has revealed that 40% are bullied because of their problem, with many experiencing feelings of embarrassment, isolation, shame and depression.
58% of children and young people surveyed said that on a day-to-day basis, their problem bothers them quite a lot or all the time, and 72% said their problem sometimes, usually or always stops them taking part in school activities. In addition, more than two thirds (69%) said that they have not felt able to, or would not feel able, to talk to school staff about their problem.
One young person said: “This pretty much ruins my life, I have depression because of it and I don’t want to tell anyone. I’m 15 and I’ve had this problem since I was 12. I feel like I can never be normal. For a long time I wouldn’t even hang out with people because I feared I would pee myself and they would find out. I hate it so much I just need it to stop.”
Parents of children with continence problems also took part in the ERIC survey (1,127 parents took part), and 1 in 5 said they currently feel unable to speak to school staff about their child’s difficulty. Many raised concerns about poor knowledge on continence issues and a lack of clear school procedures. And a fifth also said that poor school toilet facilities contributed to their child’s continence problem.
One parent said: “My daughter wears a Tena pad in her briefs but the school doesn’t have disposal facilities and so wet pads are sent home in her book bag. Other children are picking up on her being wet, smelling and using pads and my daughter gets very embarrassed. The school don’t seem to understand her problem and just think she wets herself”.
Around 1 in 12 children suffers with an ongoing continence problem, which is often linked to underlying bladder or bowel issues such as Urinary Tract Infections, an irritable bladder, developmental delays, or chronic constipation. Yet these issues are often poorly understood by health and education professionals, and there remains a huge stigma around discussing wee and poo problems.
Jenny Perez, Director of ERIC says: “Many of the parents who took part in our survey said that their child’s school does not understand or prioritise their child’s continence issue, and that as a result the child’s health is suffering. For example, children with these issues need to drink plenty of fluid during the day, and be allowed to use school toilets when they need to in order to manage their problem effectively. It’s also vital for bullying to be identified by school staff and dealt with proactively.
“Without the right support and care, continence issues can have a serious impact on a child’s learning, development and wellbeing. We therefore urge schools, parents and healthcare professionals to download our Right to Go toolkit which can help them work together to improve the management of these problems in schools.”
The Right to Go toolkit is available to download for free via ERIC’s website, eric.org.uk and has recently been shortlisted for a Nursing Times Award.