Over the years I have heard from parents about their toileting nightmare scenarios. As we are dealing with our children/teens toileting issues at home, which is all consuming in and of itself, we assume all is well when our kids are cared for by others. Right? The answer is, not always. My goal is not to upset or worry you but rather to inform you so that you can be knowledgeable and know how to prepare, advocate, and safeguard your child while they require toilet training or assistance. The following examples are real. As you read them please think about these situations from the perspective of a parent, professional or caretaker.
This parent shared that her fourth-grade child (who is also non-verbal) required assistance with the entire toileting process. One day he came home from school and mom noticed that the top of his penis was pinched by the zipper of his pants. Her son seemed bothered by this but not in pain. The mother told me that he has a high tolerance for pain in general so he just appeared to be uncomfortable but could not communicate in any way. Evidently, the staff person assigned to care for his toileting needs was perhaps in a hurry or frustrated and carelessly zipped up his pants without noticing that he was injured, and he remained in that state until he arrived home from school. The mother went to the school to confront them, but they denied that this had happened while in their care.
What would you do?
Mom was concerned because she sent her daughter to school every day in clean clothes yet, her daughter was arriving home smelling of urine and feces and her clothes were also dirty.
We eventually learned from an honest staff member that the individual who oversaw her toileting and hygiene was not changing her pullup according to the assigned schedule. Consequently, forced the student to sit in her dirty pull up for several hours. Other students did not want to be anywhere near her. It took a while before the mother put the pieces together and figured out what was really happening during the school day. This had many layers of consequences for this 2nd grade girl.
Either this was not a priority or an interest to the staff person responsible for the student’s care or perhaps this professional was not sufficiently supported at work and was stretched too thin?
This 3rd grade boy with a physical disability required assistance in the bathroom. The staff person assigned had to keep the stall door open so she could make sure he was safe. However, the student became self-conscious when other students entered the bathroom. He asked her to close the stall door for privacy, but she could not do so and keep him safe at the same time. This made him embarrassed in front of his peers and had a potential to invite bullying and lower his self-esteem.
How do we insure privacy and modesty in this type of situation? Was the staff person just doing her job the best she could under the circumstances or was she denying his desire for privacy?
Toileting is so personal and yet we as parents expect and assume that those entrusted to care for our children will do so professionally. Toileting issues can lead to mistreatment and abuse and not just to kids. It happens in group homes, nursing homes, camps, and with caretakers in our own homes.
So how can we be proactive in preventing these situations from occurring in the first place? How can we best advocate and build a plan with the professionals who work with our kids? My next blog post will address this and many other matters related to toileting goals and situations.
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