Bladder and bowel incontinence, the inability to voluntarily empty the bowels and bladder - which can also lead to infections - is often found in children who have Spina Bifida, Paraplegia, Spastic Cerebral Palsy and Muscular Dystrophy. Incontinence goes hand in hand with leakages and many children have to use expensive nappies which impacts not only on the finances but also on self-image and dignity.

In 2001 Mrs Phyllida Kok was the Senior Occupational Therapist at Muriel Brand School. With financial aid from Afrisun East Rand Community Trust she introduced an incontinence clinic where she educated children, aged three years and up, to manage urine incontinence via catheterisation (two to three hour intervals) and bowel incontinence by means of coloplast rinsing two to three times a week.

Phyllida told her dream of clinics for all special children to PACSEN (Parents Association for Children with Special Educational Needs) and they took it up with our national and provincial education bodies arguing that children with disabilities would never be treated equally unless they could get out of nappies. Since 2005 PACSEN have been attending meetings and liaising with authorities trying to push this slow and long-winded process.

In 2006 Martie du Plessis School, unwilling and unable to wait for the cogs of state to turn their way, raised the funds for - and built - their own clinic. In 2006 30 children were using the original clinic at Muriel Brand School but, by 2009, they had over 50 children and were desperately in need of an upgrade! Towards the end of 2009 PACSEN was informed by Gauteng Department of Education that they would upgrade facilities at Muriel Brandt school and build an additional five clinics in Gauteng. PACSEN commended the Gauteng Department of Education for their support and arranged workshops where school sisters were trained in the required techniques by qualified, professional nurses. JessenDakile, who have a wide range of bathroom products suited to youngsters, assisted with the needs analysis and supplied many of the products. PACSEN are also negotiating with Gauteng Department of Education for professional nurses to staff the clinics and run them effectively.

In December 2010 we visited Muriel Brand School to see the upgraded incontinence facilities and find out what the children and care-givers thought of them. We are pleased to report a resounding thumbs-up!!

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