How to Manage Incontinence In Children With Special Needs


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This article is evidence-based, verified by Dr. Ahmed Zayed

Incontinence can have a serious impact on a child’s academic performance, social life, and self-esteem. No matter when or where it occurs, this problem can be extremely embarrassing, particularly when the child happens to be at school. Here, you will learn how to help your child get that control back with a proper training process. 

3 Ways to Control Incontinence in Special Needs Children 

For non-disabled children, incontinence usually dissipates over time, but with children with disabilities, parents and caregivers need to put in a little bit more effort. Incontinence can be managed with the right approach. You can address the fluid intake, make sure your child receives proper medication, and they regularly go to the toilet.  

The reason for that is relatively simple. Incontinence or lack of proper urinary control is a very common problem in all children. In fact, it is so prevalent that it affects 30% of children that are around four years old, 3% for 12 years old, and 10% for seven years old. But, for special needs children, the rates are a lot higher. In other words, your child is not alone.  

Research shows that 77% of children with down syndrome experience various gastrointestinal abnormalities and often have trouble controlling their need to urinate. Every child with developmental, intellectual, or physical disabilities will appreciate a proper training process that will help them regain control.  

Here we will focus on how you can take the right approach for managing incontinence in special needs children. We will talk about: 

  • How to address the fluid intake 
  • How to do proper toilet training  
  • What type of medications to expect for treating incontinence 

How to Address the Fluid Intake 

Drinking excessive amounts of fluid during the day will act as a bladder stimulant. It will increase the amount of urine stored in the child’s system. The more they have to hold, the more difficult it will become to control it.  

The right approach would be to control the amount of fluid a child drinks in a day. For example, a child is supposed to drink 8-ounce-cups of fluid (preferably water) equal to their age, but not consume more than 64 ounces. If they go over the limit, it can be more difficult to control the urine.  

How To Do Proper Toilet Training  

Every child with a disability needs the same continence services as a non-disabled individual. If they have bowel or bladder issues, they can easily be maintained with regular toileting. But, with children with disabilities, it takes a lot more patience, practice, planning, and persistence. With the right approach, you can always make a real improvement. This is how all of these factors play in motion. 

Characteristics for Successful Toilet Training Why is it important? How can it help? 
Patience For many, patience is hard to find. People often blame a child for failing and will focus on the setbacks rather than the improvements.  For proper toilet training, it’s important to encourage your child and implement a bit of humor. This kind of approach will pay off in the end. 
Practice Practice makes perfect, and in this case, it’s important to keep on trying.  The more a child practices proper toilet usage, the more confident they will feel. 
Persistence Persistence is crucial when teaching any child with disabilities. Some may take a while to understand what you are teaching them, but the goal is never to give up.  By setting reachable goals and realistic expectations, you will be more prepared to help your child overcome those difficulties. You won’t be as frustrated as usual. This will create a positive atmosphere and make it easier for the child to learn. 
Planning Incontinence always comes unannounced.  A plan for scheduling all the daily activities for your child with disabilities can have a huge impact on their toilet training routine.  If you take the time to schedule mutual activates for you and your child, you will establish proper communication.  The more time you spend together, the easier it will be to figure out when your child needs to use the toilet. The child will also confide in you more. 

What Type of Medications to Expect for Treating Incontinence 

For most children, incontinence disappears with age and proper training. But, sometimes, parents need to take their child for a therapy session where the doctor might suggest a certain medication. This depends on how resistant the child is to use the toilet. 

Some children with obsessional behavior or learning disabilities could be more difficult to train to use the toilet. Even though they might be able to do it by themselves, they can build a resistance to it. In cases such as these, a doctor can prescribe a certain medication that will increase the ADH levels in the child’s system and calm down the bladder muscles.  

ADH levels have an important role to play in the human body. If the levels are too low, it will make it incredibly difficult for the kidneys to control the amount of water to reabsorb as they filter out the waste at the same time.  

Medications such as these will highly depend on your child’s health condition. These medications, however, can only be prescribed by a doctor. 

Final Thoughts 

Every young child has bowel or bladder difficulties and will need to learn how to manage them. But, for children with disabilities, caregivers and parents should be prepared to use more effort to achieve favorable results. If they fail to treat the problem on time, there is high possibility incontinence may persist into adulthood.  

If you take the right approach, it’s possible to control the issue. The key to making it work is to control the amount of fluid a child consumes, the type of toilet training they receive, and whether or not they may need to use medications. 

Dr. Ahmed Zayed

Dr. Ahmed Zayed, MD holds a baccalaureate of Medicine and Surgery. An avid contributor to the Huffington Post and Chicago Tribune, Dr. Zayed believes in providing accurate and accessible information to general readers. With years of writing and editing content in the medical niche, Dr. Zayed likes to think of himself as a man with a mission, keeping the internet free of false medical information.

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