Staying Dry At School

By Jude Roberts, Staff Writer


When children begin going to school, most people assume that they will have very little problem with the issue of going to the bathroom. However, some children may have trouble with the ability to control when and where they need to go, either due to a physical challenge or because of a disease or illness that doesnít allow for regular control over their bladder or bowel functions.

Incontinence can be very stressful, embarrassing, and frightening to the child. Hope can be found through several steps that parents and other caregivers can take in order to help an incontinent child feel well-adjusted, happy, and secure throughout their school day. 

The most obvious place to begin is with what type of under garments are best for your childís particular situation. If your child is too large for regular, disposable diapers, you may want to consider contoured or fitted diapers. They tend to vary in style, from those which have a slight hour glass shape to those that are fully-fitted panties with elastic legs and waist. When researching these types of undergarments, itís important to be aware that some of the fully contoured briefs and diapers canít be bleached, a fact which may help to narrow down the choices. Waterproof pants are usually worn with other reusable products, however, they can also be used with disposables products. When used with disposables they can provide an added margin of safety, provide some noise reduction and sometimes offer a little camouflage. Waterproof pants are most commonly made from vinyl plastic, available in various thicknesses, with a choice of colored or white. Then there is the all-in-one incontinent pant which is also reusable. This product combines an absorbent pad or diaper with a waterproof shell and function like adult disposable diapers. The only draw back for the all-in-one pant is that it tends to be one of the incontinence products most difficult to design well. A related product, known as protective underpants, are designed to protect against moderate to light leakage. The advantage of wearing protective underpants is that they can look and feel like normal underwear while providing protection for at least moderate incontinence, and there are also some all-in-ones which are designed for heavy incontinence. To a child, a cloth panty is ďrealĒ underwear, and this will help them to feel more like their peers. 

Another area that may also provide security for incontinent, school-aged children is adaptive clothing. Many incontinent children have other medical conditions that may complicate their incontinence care and management, especially at school. Adaptive clothing can provide ease of care that is not always available with standard clothing. This is particularly true for clothing designed to help parents care for a child with special needs. Clothing can make it easier to dress someone who has limited flexibility, and also make it easier to access catheters or diapers. Specialized clothing can also help hide incontinence products better than standard clothing. For example, a T-shirt that snaps under the crotch canít pull out of the waist band and allow for the protective under garments to be shown. Specialized clothing can be both attractive and protective, such as slips that have waterproof panels which can be worn under dresses and skirts. There are also other special garments, like swim suites, that are made especially for children with bowel incontinence. 

Parents are encouraged to work with their childís healthcare team. These professionals will usually be able to help the family and child develop an emotionally healthy way of dealing with incontinence, especially when at school. You can also speak with your childís teacher, principal and school nurse to make sure they understand your child with regards to their bathroom needs, and if necessary, make sure the school and the childís healthcare team have an open dialogue regarding the obstacles and solutions that may be experienced throughout the school year. Remaining involved and informed will help you to continue to provide your child with a wonderful, stable, and happy educational experience. 

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