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New research will evaluate ways to improve continence for disabled children

Posted on June 21st 2018

Learning to manage going to the toilet independently is an important milestone in child development. Being continent involves recognising that you need to go to the toilet, controlling until an appropriate place can be found, urinating and/or defecating, and cleaning up afterwards.

Children with special educational needs and disability may be slower to learn to manage going to the toilet, or need extra help, but many can become continent with the right support.  Clinicians often recommend ways to improve continence, including toilet training programmes, nappies and other products, aids and equipment, medicines and surgery. Children should be assessed carefully by clinicians to determine the most suitable and the most effective methods.  However, there is currently no consensus as to the best way to assess and treat children with special educational needs and disability.

A team of continence specialists and research methodologists led by Dr Chris Morris from the childhood disability research group, PenCRU, have recently received funding from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Technology Assessment programme for a project that aims to address this issue. The project was developed in conjunction with families who have experience of a child with continence management needs and will now engage with health professionals working with children with neurological conditions, and families who have direct experience with using NHS services to promote continence. Together they will conduct a systematic review of all the evidence from published research about the effectiveness of methods to assess and improve continence for children with disabilities.

This research will enable the team to summarise evidence for interventions and make recommendations for research and clinical practice for improving continence for children and young people with neurodisability.

Dr Morris said “We and families who work with us in our PenCRU Family Faculty are so pleased to be able to carry out this research. Families of disabled children tell us that coping with children who are not continent is such a massive issue for them. Evaluating ways to improve continence was voted by families and health professionals in the Top 10 research priorities for disabled children. We hope the work will lead to identifying betters ways to assess and promote continence for disabled children in the future.”

For more information about the project visit the NIHR project page.

The project team are currently recruiting for a Postdoctoral Research Fellow to support the work of the project (closing date 16th July 2018). To find out more, please visit the University of Exeter jobs website.

Dr Chris Morris leads the childhood disability research group PenCRU (Peninsula Cerebra Research Unit), in the Institute for Health Research, University of Exeter Medical School.

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