Over 35 million people across the country live with incontinence; a large portion of these are children with special needs such as autism.
Helping your child navigate life with the loss of bladder control can be challenging, especially as he/she heads back to school and begins to participate in after-school activities or sports.
While you can’t prepare for all challenges your child may face related to incontinence, there are steps you can take to help reduce anxiety and lessen the chance of an accident at school or during extracurricular activities.
Have a plan
Many children with autism like to have set plans for daily activities so they know what to expect throughout the day. Setting these expectations can lead to lessened stress for your child, which can also help decrease the chance of accidents.
Before your child heads back to school, outline a daily schedule to share with him/her. Let him/her know what time classes or activities will start, how long they will last, where they are located, what teachers, staff, or coaches will be there, and any friends who will be there. It may be helpful to write down these notes so your child can take them with him/her to reference throughout the day.
Once you have a schedule and plan laid out, take time before the school year or activities start to visit the location and scout out restrooms. You’ll want to help your child locate bathrooms he/she can easily access throughout the day and during after-school activities.
Don’t be afraid to talk with teachers or staff
As your child embarks on a new school year, it’s important you meet with teachers and staff ahead of time. Talk through any special needs or requirements your child may have and work with them to set your child up for success.
Be sure to let them know your child experiences incontinence, no matter how frequent or occasional. They can help you locate nearby restrooms, subtly remind your child and others to use the restroom, and help your child navigate the day.
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For many children, both with and without autism, accidents occur when they forget to use the restroom. This can happen because they are excited, distracted, engrossed in an activity, or just playing with friends.
During class or extracurricular activities, children may also be embarrassed or afraid to ask about going to use the restroom. When bladder control is less than strong, these situations can lead to unexpected accidents.
As part of your child’s daily plan, outline times for him/her to use the restroom. Remind him/her to go before class, or an activity begins. You can also set reminders on a watch or device your child carries, so he/she gets a notification to have a restroom break every two or so hours.
Get appropriate supplies
Even with all of the best planning, your child may still experience an accident at school or during after-school activities. When wearing regular underwear, any bladder leakage can be fairly obvious; however, if your child is equipped with absorbent incontinence products, accidents will be less likely to be noticed by peers.
Incontinence products have come a long way in recent years, especially those for older children. Pull-ons, sometimes referred to as protective underwear, are designed very similarly to regular underwear. These products are discreet and look and feel like underwear while providing your child with absorbency and odor protection.
As some children with autism also experience sensory issues, there are a variety of incontinence products that are soft to the touch and won’t rub or cause skin irritation.
If your child is school-aged, has been diagnosed with autism, and is experiencing incontinence, insurance may also help in paying for supplies. Organizations such as Aeroflow Urology can help you determine if this is a benefit under your child’s insurance and will provide you with monthly refills of needed incontinence products. Aeroflow also offers several varieties of products and will provide samples, so your child is able to find the right product for his/her specific needs.
Remind kids to have fun!
Remember that starting a new school year or activity can be stressful for your child. Remind him/her to have fun and enjoy this time with his/her peers while following the above steps to set him/her up for success.
This article was featured in Issue 107 –Caring for Your Autism Family