BY NANCY SCHRINER
Does your special needs child have trouble wetting the bed?
Is there a way to prevent your special needs child from wetting the bed? Nocturnal enuresis is the medical term for bed-wetting. This is common among young children who have yet to gain control of their bladder. In fact, up to 20% of all children before the age of five can wet the bed up to two nights a week. The disruption of sleep for parent and child, the clean-up process night after night, and the extra laundry accumulated can mount up to frustration pretty fast.
Multiply this scenario exponentially and you might catch a glimpse of what parents of special needs children experience. These parents can become desperate for help! Fortunately there are products on the market that can help parents and children in this situation. One such product is an enuresis alarm pad. Wendy Williams, general manager of Chichester’s Homecare on Gray Highway says, “We have a unisex product that is a moisture sensing device for children who wet the bed. This plastic covered pad can detect as little as two drops of urine and will wake the child up if an accident occurs.”
Some special needs children have physical limitations to staying dry. For example, children with Spina Bifida don’t have the “normal architecture of the nervous system to allow control over wetting,” says Dr. Eric Jones, assistant professor of urology at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston.
Children with other disabilities, such as ADD, ADHD, Down Syndrome, psychological diagnoses, or a history of sexual or physical abuse might require a team of professionals to help families cope. Dr. Luann L. Purcell, Executive Director, Council of Administrators of Special Education in Warner Robins says, “Bed-wetting is one of those areas that if you make a big deal out of it, it can only get worse . . . but as with other areas of development, given a child’s disability and the severity of the disability, it is usually just a “delay” over those without disabilities…so if it is “normal” up to age 5, then you would just extend that a year or two before getting worried.”
Whatever the reason for enuresis in your home, here are a few tips that might help you and your child survive this stressful period:
Show your child love and understanding. Be optimistic—getting angry at your child may make the problem worse.
Involve your child
Allow your child to help in the middle-of-the-night cleanups. This will give him a greater sense of control by being an active partner in the process.
Give clear instructions
Make sure your child knows it is acceptable to get out of bed to use the toilet. Some children are told to go to bed and stay there, which may be confusing to a special needs child.
If there is a physical reason, gain full understanding of it
If your child has a physical mobility issue, then make the environment as supportive as possible. If the child’s particular disability, like diabetes, commonly causes enuresis, then become knowledgeable about the link.
Offer more fluids
Push fluids, but not within four hours of bedtime. Remember, a stretched, full bladder holds less concentrated urine and is less irritable to your child’s bladder.
Limit sugary or caffeinated drinks
Understand that your child’s body will produce more urine in an effort to eliminate excess sugar, and caffeine stimulates its production.
Protect the bed
Use waterproof sheets, disposable absorbent underpants, or disposable bed pads. (Puppy training pads are cheaper and work just as well!)
Absorb the smell
Sprinkle baking soda on a wet mattress to help eliminate the smell and soak up moisture, too. Just vacuum up.
Do not assume the child will never be dry, unless physical impediments exist. It might take a long time and a lot of patience, but it will happen.
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to bed-wetting. Loving your child unconditionally through this frustrating and embarrassing time will go a long way in protecting his and your emotional health.