Saturday, 10 December 2016

CONTENTS





















This blog is now complete and provides as detailed an account as possible of my childhood soiling problem.

I have also written a single post blog for children who soil, telling my story in simple language: The Boy Who Pooed His Pants

You can click on the post titles below to either read the articles in the order posted or go straight to areas that are of interest to you.
















Please click here if you wish to contact the author of this blog




Tuesday, 6 December 2016

POSITIVE OUTCOMES

I wouldn’t wish encopresis on anyone, and certainly not on my younger self.  Yet, despite the painful and embarrassing experiences of soiling myself as a child, there have, I think, been some positive outcomes.  In this final blog post I would like to consider these.

The things I did as a child,
including soiling myself,
have made me very patient
 with children as an adul
t.
Firstly, I think that my childhood experiences have made me very patient with children, which was undoubtedly useful when I did voluntary work in local primary schools, day nurseries and playgroups.  If any of the children did or said anything silly, I remembered back to some of the things which I did when I was their age, which may be considered silly when viewed through adult eyes, but which made perfect sense to me at the time.  I am particularly patient when it comes to children’s toilet issues and think nothing of it when I see a girl or boy past the usual age for potty training who is still wearing nappies or pull-ups, and would never punish any child in my care for a toilet accident, no matter how old they were, or feel anything but sympathy for that child.

I believe this empathy with the feelings of children who wet or soil themselves began at an early age.  As I said in my post A Pooey Bottom at Nursery, I never teased Holly when she pooed her pants at school, nor did I ever mention her accident to her or to anyone else.  Similarly, I never said anything to Melanie about wetting herself during rehearsals for the school’s nativity play, outlined in Soiling at School, or to a 7 year old friend who wet his pants while we were walking home from school.

I also think that encopresis has given me an appreciation of bowel control, and a determination to hang onto it, that is stronger than in many other adults.  For example, while a lot of adults dislike having a bowel movement while they are at work, or try to avoid using public toilets if they need a poo, I am happy to park my bottom anywhere when nature calls.  I have seen the consequences of withholding and I have no intention whatsoever of repeating the mistakes of my childhood.  Good bowel control is now too important for me to jeopardise it again.

Using my experiences to help today's
children who soil, and their
parents, has been the silver
lining to the cloud of encopresis. (c)
However, undoubtedly the biggest positive from my experiences has been the ability to help the children of today who have soiling problems, and their parents.  Although there must be thousands of adults who had similar issues when they were younger, there are few who are willing to share their experiences, which is perfectly understandable.  Though I was hesitant at first, choosing to write about my childhood soiling was one of the best decisions I have made and I am delighted that so many parents have found my reminiscences useful, and that older children who soil have found comfort and help from my books A Boy Like You and A Girl Like You.  I could not have written these books if I had not suffered from encopresis myself as knowing exactly how it felt to frequently poo yourself when you were 7, 8 or 9 years old was a key component to their success.  I have been asked more questions by parents about my toilet problems than I care to recall, which I have been happy to answer as honestly and candidly as I can.  Now this blog is complete it should hopefully be useful to more parents who are struggling to help and understand their feelings of their son or daughter who is suffering from this condition.

Someone once told me that I had to go through the painful experiences of encopresis as a child in order to help others as an adult.  While my younger self, and my mother who frequently had to clean me up, may never have thought that anything good could have come out of my withholding and soiling habit, I am very pleased that even the cloud of this humiliating condition has proved to have had a silver lining.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

'A BOY LIKE YOU' AND 'A GIRL LIKE YOU'

Type ‘soiling’ into Google’s search engine and you will get over 5 million results.  Outside of cyberspace, however, encopresis remains a topic that few people want to talk about and it never seems to be discussed on television.  I have stated before how when I was a boy I thought I was the only school aged child in the world who still pooed his pants.  Three years ago I got to wondering how many other children felt the same way and were miserable as a result.  I suspected that the answer was rather a lot.

I did a bit of research and found that, while there were picture books available for young children who soiled, there was nothing for the many older children with the same condition.  Also, while children’s writers such as Jacqueline Wilson had showed that a bedwetter, like Tracy Beaker, could be a heroine, there seemed to be no mainstream books in which the lead character was a child who pooed her pants.  It looked like there was no-one for the older child who had encopresis to identify with, no-one who shared their problem and could act as a role model.  I decided that it was time to turn my own experiences into something that could help the children of today.  It was time for a child who soiled to become a heroine!

The cover of the 
original book.
In 2014 I self-published A Child Like You, in both paperback and for the Kindle and Kindle apps.  I tried to make it realistic, but positive.  Beth, the lead character, has painful memories from when she first began soiling, but she is now able to manage her condition and is well on the way to becoming completely clean.  Her thoughts and feelings largely mirrored my own, although her experiences were also based on those of other children with encopresis, such as taking off her soiled pants and hiding them, which I never did.  Drama was provided when another girl smelt that Beth had messed herself in assembly and she feared that the whole class would soon know her embarrassing secret.

The reaction to the book was overwhelmingly positive.  Many children who soiled were delighted to read a book in which the lead character had the same problem as them, and could often identify with what was happening to Beth and how she was feeling, and several parents told me that their child did not want to put the book down or had read it multiple times. Some readers were amazed to find out that other kids had this condition, having previously believing that they were the only one. 

Parents themselves also found the book useful, both in understanding the problem from a child’s point of view and in helping to start a conversation with their son or daughter about their toilet issues.  Some parents even told me how it had encouraged their child to try to poo on the toilet and to change themselves after an accident. 

The only negative comment was from some mothers of boys who said they found it difficult, or impossible, to get their son to read a book in which the main character was a girl.  Although I knew that girls tended to be less resistant in reading a book with a male protagonist, I did not want to simply change Beth into a boy.  While they are outnumbered by their male peers, I know that there are a lot of girls who soil, and I did not want to deprive them of their heroine.  I also felt that for an issue as personal as toilet problems, children would better be able to identify with a fellow sufferer who was the same sex as themselves.

The new gender specific titles
offer the same story from the
perspective of both
a boy and a girl who soil.
The solution I decided was to split the book into two separate gender specific titles.  The result was A Boy Like You and A Girl Like You, which I published in April 2016.  In the new edition for boys, Beth has become Justin, but the story is the same with the sexes of all the child characters reversed.  I also took the opportunity to amend the original book, introducing some new material based on my conversations with parents, such as the belief that withholding poo makes it disappear, which was a misconception that I also had as a child, and altering some passages which I felt did not completely work in the original version. 

As with the original book, these new editions were endorsed by ERIC, the children’s bowel and bladder charity, who agreed to stock the paperback versions of the British Edition in their online shop.  An American Edition, in both paperback and on the Kindle, is also available.  The story is identical to the British version, but the vocabulary, spelling and phrasing of the American Edition has been adapted to make it familiar to North American readers.

The new versions have proved even more popular than the first book, parents with boys who soil being particularly grateful for a ‘boy friendly’ version, and I continue to receive favourable comments.  In my original blog I wrote that if just one child who soils his or her pants is helped by reading this book then it will have been well worth the effort to write it.  It has clearly done more than that and I am delighted that the new versions are continuing to help older children who have this terrible condition.  I make no money from them, but I am always thrilled when I hear from another parent telling me how reading one of these books has helped them and their child.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

THE RIGHT TO GO

Imagine this: you are spending the evening at the theatre with a group of friends.  You are enjoying the show, but the drinks you had during the interval have inconveniently made their way to your bladder.  Afraid that you are not going to be able to wait until the final curtain, and having no wish to suffer the discomfort of a full bladder for longer than is necessary, you decide to excuse yourself and make use of the theatre’s toilets.  Getting up, you clamber over your friends and the other patrons on your row and make your way to the nearest exit out from the auditorium. 

You are in for a shock, however.  An usher is standing in front of the exit, blocking your escape, and he refuses to let you pass.  Slightly embarrassed, you explain that you need the toilet and when he still refuses you say that you are desperate and cannot wait.  He is implacable.  ‘You should have gone during the interval,’ he says.  ‘You’ll have to wait until the show is over now.’

It is impossible for a child to
fully concentrate on his 

schoolwork if he needs to
go to the toilet. (c)
Defeated you return to your seat.  Maybe it would have been wise to have made use of the facilities during the interval, but you didn’t really need to go then and, in any case, the queues were fairly long and you have never liked a crowd when you use the loo.  You resume your seat, but you are unable to enjoy the rest of the play.  Your concentration is focussed solely on the steadily increasing pain from your bladder, and your growing fear that you are going to have an embarrassing accident in front of your friends, which will probably be part of the conversation of dinner parties for years to come.  You also hope that your companions do not notice your hand placed firmly in your crotch, and your legs crossed ever tighter as you desperately try to avoid wetting yourself in your seat.  The only other thought occupying your mind is your sense of anger towards the usher.  What gives one human the right to deny another access to the toilet?  Surely being able to use the toilet when you need to is a basic human right, isn’t it?

The above scenario may seem ridiculous, but every day in schools children face a similar dilemma, needing to wee or poo during lesson time but being refused permission to use the toilet because ‘you should have gone at breaktime,’ or not bothering to ask because they know the answer will be in the negative.  Such children are then unlikely to be able to concentrate on their work, as the increasingly strong signals from their bladder or bowel occupies their attention, and they worry about whether they are going to have an accident in front of their peers.  For a child who is past nursery age, wetting or soiling your pants in class is one of the most humiliating experiences imaginable, and peers are not likely to let the poor kid forget their accident in a hurry.  And yet the child has done nothing wrong except needing the toilet at a slightly inconvenient time.

Every parent will know that when a
young child needs to go, he needs to
go NOW, but watering the grass is not
an option for him in the classroom. (c)
For several years I did volunteer work at various local primary schools, working with children aged from 3 to 11.  If a child asked me if they could go to the toilet I always said ‘yes’ without hesitation.  The teachers, however, were not always so accommodating.  In a Year 2 class in one school a 6 year old boy repeatedly asked during a lesson if he could use the toilet but the teacher refused him permission: ‘playtime is the time for going to the toilet,’ she told him.  The poor boy had to keep returning to his desk, increasingly desperate and unable to do much of the task he had been set.  In a different school, a 7 year old girl had to wait to use the toilet because of the rule that only one child of each sex from the class were allowed to go to the toilet at a time.  The girl was clearly desperate for a wee as she hovered near the classroom door, unable to keep still and lifting up first one foot and then the other as she tried to avoid the humiliation of wetting herself in front of her classmates.  It is one of the most harrowing sights I have ever seen. 

As well as the risk of having a embarrasing accident in the classroom, there are also health issues involved in forcing a child to wait to use the toilet.  Withholding urine can cause urinary tract infections (UTIs) and continence problems, and, as we have seen in my case, withholding poo can cause constipation and soiling problems.  The need to poo, in particular, can strike at any time, and a child should be encouraged to open their bowel as soon as possible when the need arises.  Many children who otherwise have no toilet issues are reluctant to use the school toilets when they need to poo, preferring to wait until they get home, by which time the urge might have gone, risking constipation problems, or they may have soiled.  Personally, I think that children should be encouraged ask to go to the toilet when they need to poo during lessons and should certainly not be denied permission.  I’ve thought up my own soundbite for a campaign around this issue: ‘It’s Cool to Poo at School!’

Children should be
encouraged to poo at school
if they need to. (c)
You can probably guess that I am fully supportive of ERIC’s ‘The Right to Go’campaign, which calls for schoolchildren to have access to safe and hygienic school toilets at all times, as well as highlighting every child’s right to good care for a continence problem at school.

Of course, it’s better for the smooth running of a lesson if children use the toilets during their breaks and I’m not suggesting that they should not do this.  But there will always be times when the need to go does not coincide with playtime or lunchtime and all teachers should make allowances for this.  Also, some children will feel uncomfortable going to the toilets when they are crowded, particularly for a poo.  Such children should not be made to suffer because of this and arrangements should be made to allow them to attend to their toilet needs in a manner that is comfortable for them.  And yes, there will be the odd pupil who deliberately uses the excuse of needing the toilet to get out of lessons they do not enjoy, or for nefarious activities such as smoking, but these should be dealt with on an individual basis, and not by punishing the whole class by stopping everyone going to the toilet in lesson time.



I’m sure that there will be teachers who disagree with me and predict chaos in the classroom if they allow their pupils unrestricted access to the toilets.  But ultimately it comes down to the question I posed in my imaginary scenario at the theatre: what gives one human the right to deny another access to the toilet?  

Thursday, 13 October 2016

ERIC - THE CHILDREN'S BOWEL & BLADDER CHARITY

There are many excellent charities operating in the UK and across the world.  Everyone has their favourite, often based on personal experience or circumstances.  There are many charities I admire, particularly those working to improve the lives of children, such as the NSPCC and Barnardos.  But without doubt my favourite charity is ERIC – The Children’s Bowel & Bladder Charity, a small UK based charity which does brilliant work in an unglamorous area.

ERIC provides a lifeline for desperate
parents worried about their child's
wetting or soiling problems. (c)
Set up by The Children’s Society in 1988, ERIC, which now stands for Education and Resources for Improving Childhood Continence, originally specialised in helping families to deal with bedwetting in children and teenagers, but has since expanded to cover other toilet problems in young people such as daytime wetting, constipation and soiling. 

From its offices in Bristol in the west of England, ERIC’s helpline, website and publications are a lifeline for parents and children dealing with continence issues.  Wetting and soiling issues in children and teenagers are a distressing problem for the young person concerned as well as for their parents, who often feel unable to discuss their child’s condition with their families and friends, and sometimes also have difficulty dealing with the medical profession.  ERIC’s helpline, in particular, is a great help to parents both in providing a listening, non-judgemental ear and offering expert advice.  Their staff and volunteers are happy to talk about wee and poo all day and have helped countless desperate families over the years.

But it is not only because of the excellent work that they do that I love ERIC so much.  They are also great in looking after their supporters.  They do not bombard you with requests for donations, but treat you with the human touch.  I have had several personal emails, and even handwritten letters, from various members of staff.  They keep you updated on the work they are doing and really make you feel valued.

The only sad thing is that ERIC was not around when I was a child.  I’m sure with their help I would have been able to overcome my soiling problem quicker, and they would also have been a great source of comfort and help to my mother.  Although she often got cross with me when I had accidents, my mother is a wonderful person, always helping others and devoted to her family.  My soiling undoubtedly caused her anguish and, like me, she probably thought that no other school aged child still had accidents in his pants like I did.  There was no internet to turn to for information and, like so many parents, she felt unable to discuss my poo problems with others.  Being able to speak to an organisation like ERIC would, I’m sure, have brought a great sense of relief to her.

Advice on potty training is another
of ERIC's specialities. (c)
ERIC can also help with potty training, and their online shop sells bedwetting alarms, travel potties, vibrating watches and even pee and poo soft toys and keyrings.  They also sell a wide range of protective pants and swimwear suitable for containing poo accidents.  And finally, they have a wide range of books covering all aspects of children’s toileting, including my own books for older children who soil, A Boy Like You and A Girl LikeYou, which will be the subject of a future post.

For more information please go to ERIC’s website, www.eric.org.uk, or click on the box on this website.

ERIC, 36 Old School House, Britannia Road, Kingswood, Bristol, BS15 8DB, United Kingdom.  ERIC is a Registered Charity (no 1002424) and a Company Limited by Guarantee (no 2580579) registered in England and Wales.

Friday, 30 September 2016

HELP!!!! MY CHILD HAS ENCOPRESIS

In July 2012 fellow former encopresis sufferer DimityTelfer suggested I join a Facebook group of which she herself was a member.  The group was called HELP!!!!My Child Has Encopresis, and was set up to provide a forum for parents whose children, of all ages, had soiling problems.  Although I was not a parent, Dimity felt that my input would be useful as an ‘adult survivor’, and that many members would be interested in hearing about my childhood experiences.

The group provides a vital forum for parents
 of children and teenagers who soil (c).
I agreed to join and quickly received a warm welcome from many group members, who were keen to hear my story and try to see encopresis from a child’s point of view and understand how their own children may be feeling.  The fact that I was male was also seen as an advantage as more boys suffer from encopresis than girls (in the group there is an approximate 60/40 split between boys and girls who soil).  As it is mostly mothers who do the lion’s share of the work in trying to help their child with their toilet problems, some found it particularly useful to read about the experiences of a child of the opposite sex to themselves.

I quickly discovered just what an amazing group it was, offering advice and support in a totally non-judgemental atmosphere, with members sharing their experiences on what worked for their child and what didn’t.  One of the best things about the group was that it offered an environment where parents could freely discuss their child’s toilet issues, which they often felt unable to talk about with their family and friends.  Sadly, soiling in children past potty training age remains largely a taboo subject in the real world, and the older the child the harder it is to talk about to others who have had no experience of toilet problems in their offspring.  This makes encopresis a very isolating condition, both for the child and his or her parents.

Many members find comfort just from being among others who are going through similar experiences, while others are delighted to be able to talk about their child’s soiling with others who ‘get it’.  It is also a good place to vent frustrations on bad days when, for example their son has refused point blank to try to use the toilet and has soiled himself five times during the day or their daughter has pooed her pants in a public place and refused to change herself.  The flip side of this is that parents are also able to celebrate their child’s toilet successes, big and small.  Few people outside the group would understand a mother getting excited because her 8 year old daughter has kept her knickers clean all day or her teenage son has taken himself off to the bathroom and done a poo!

I had never thought that anyone would want to know the explicit details of how I had pooed myself as a child, but I was asked various questions about my juvenile toileting habits that I was happy to answer as candidly as I could.  One of the rules of the group is that nothing is TMI.  It is a principle I have adopted when writing this blog.  Some people may be shocked to read a blog in which soiling is discussed so frankly, and using words like ‘poo’ instead of euphemisms like ‘Number 2’, but I have found this approach to be one which parents of children who soil appreciate and find useful.
The new group provides similar support
 for parents of children and teenagers
 who have daytime wetting problems (c)

In July 2016, four years after joining, I was invited to become an Administrator of the group and I was happy to agree.  This has given me the opportunity to welcome new members to the group.  Being such a friendly group means that disputes rarely arise, but when they do members are quick to alert me so that they can be dealt with promptly.  A month later I decided to set up a ‘sister’ group for parents of children and teenagers who wet themselves during the day, another taboo subject.  Daytime Wetting in Children and Teens operates on similar principles to the Encopresis group and I am acting as Administrator to try to ensure it offers a similar friendly, welcoming and non-judgemental environment.



Tuesday, 23 August 2016

A POOEY BOTTOM AT NURSERY

I loved the year I spent in the nursery of my infant school, although my memories of this period in my life are patchy.  One memory that is clear in my mind involved a poo accident, but, for once, I was not the culprit!

The toilets and washbasins set up at my nursery
was similar to in this picture, but with coats
hanging up instead of towels as it was also
the cloakroom. (c)
The nursery toilets were in the cloakroom, outside the classroom.  There were two cubicles, one each for boys and girls, denoted by pictures of a football and a princess’s tiara, an example of gender stereotyping that would be frowned upon today.  The washbasins were outside the cubicles in the communal area where pupils’ coats were hung.  This set up unfortunately offered no privacy to any child who had an accident, as the nursery assistant would change them while they stood next to the sink.  The nursery, which was in a separate building to the rest of the school, was accessed through the cloakroom, so any parent or visitor who happened to time their arrival shortly after a pupil had paid the price for neglecting their toileting needs would be confronted with a young child’s bare bottom facing them as they entered the building. 

And so on this day, when I was 4 years old, I entered the cloakroom and immediately saw a half naked girl from my class with her back turned towards me, a pooey bottom facing me and a pair of messy knickers at her feet.  I can’t remember her name, so I shall call her Holly.  Squatting in front of Holly, probably having just pulled down the girl’s pants and getting ready to clean her up, was one of the nursery assistants.   As I walked into the cloakroom, the assistant was saying to Holly, ‘You really should have gone to the toilet.’  It took my young brain a second to process this information before I realised what it meant: Holly had pooed her pants!

I was shocked by this for a number of reasons.  Firstly that another child had pooed herself like I often did.  Although I had no reason to think that this was anything other than a one-off accident, it still surprised me that Holly had done it as, although one or two of my classmates had wet themselves at nursery, I thought I was the only child who pooed in his pants.  I was even more surprised that it was a girl who had messed herself.  I believed in the nursery rhyme about little girls being made of ‘sugar and spice and all things nice,’ and never thought that a girl would dirty her knickers.  Indeed, I think it was a revelation to me that girls pooed at all!

And then Holly turned her head and looked at me and, for as long as I live, I shall never forget that anxious look on her face.  Even my immature brain could make a good guess at interpreting Holly’s expression: she was upset that someone had seen her being changed and now knew that she had pooed herself, and was worried that the whole class would soon know what she had done.  The fact that the witness was a child from her class and, even worse, a boy, probably worried her even more.  I looked at Holly and said nothing to her.  Nor did I laugh or giggle at her, or, indeed, make any sign to her that I had taken any notice of what I had seen.  Even forty years later I can clearly remember feeling a certain amount of empathy with her (even though I hadn’t heard of the word at the time), and feeling sorry for her.  I think I would have been more likely to go up to Holly and give her a hug than tease her.

I never told anyone that Holly had 
messed her pants at school, and for
a short time I felt less alone with
my poo problems.
When I went into the classroom I told absolutely no-one what I had seen, not on that day or any subsequent day.  Indeed, it was two decades later before I mentioned it to anyone, when talking with a colleague who was about to enter teacher training about young children having toilet accidents at school (she was resigned to the fact that she might be required to change wet pants, but was horrified by the thought that she may have to clean up a child who had pooed herself!)  Nor did I ever say anything to Holly herself about her messing her knickers.  I’m sure that this was because I knew what it would have been like to have been in her shoes, or rather, her pants!  She may not have thought so at the time, but I think she was lucky in that the boy who walked in on her being changed was the one child in the class who frequently pooed himself and knew all too well just what it was like to be in that situation.

In years to come, when I was still soiling my pants at an age when other children didn’t even seem to have one-off poo accidents, this incident would provide me with little comfort.  But, at the time, for a short period, I didn’t feel quite so alone with my habit.  And Holly had taught me, with an explicit demonstration, that girls do, in fact, poo!