It’s normal to be worried about your child’s transition from self-cathing at home to self-cathing at school. In most cases, your child will be just as-if not more-worried than you. Here are a few tips and tricks we’ve found to help make the transition easier for both you and your child.
1. Visit the school beforehand
Visiting the school with your child before they begin attending will allow you both to get a lay of the land.
When you do so, here’s a list of things you should be checking for:
— Restrooms: be sure to check what types of restrooms are available to your child, and if they’re accessible when it comes to your child’s specific needs.
— Hot water: if your child doesn’t have access to hot water, they won’t be able to sterilize their hands before and after catheterization, which means you’ll need to provide them with an antibacterial cleanser.
— Distance to the bathrooms: How far the bathroom is from your child’s classroom will impact how often they need to self-catheterize, and how long their breaks from class need to be. Figuring this out beforehand can make your conversations with school staff easier.
— Garbage cans: when your child self-catheterizes, they’ll need somewhere to dispose of their used catheters.
— Nurse’s office: make sure you take the time to show your child where the nurse’s office is, so they’re prepared in case of emergency.
Once you know the kind of facilities your child will be dealing with, you can organize a plan of attack when it comes to meeting with school administrators.
2. Talk to your school staff
Making sure your child’s school nurse and teachers are aware of your child’s medical condition and needs is essential to your child’s success at school. When talking to school staff, it is important to stress your child’s need for discretion and privacy.
Bring educational materials from the office of your healthcare provider, so you can educate them on your child’s needs if they’re unfamiliar with self-catheterization. You should also introduce your child to their teachers and school nurse, so they are comfortable asking for what they need once they start attending school.
With a note from a doctor or other healthcare provider, there is no reason the school should not make accommodations for your child. If you can, you should also ask about places your child can store backup catheter supplies in case they end up needing more throughout the day.
3. Pack a self-cathing kit
Packing a self-cathing kit helps to keep your child’s catheter supplies in as discreet a place as possible. Depending on your child’s age, you can choose to pack this in a variety of ways, such as in their backpacks, pencil case, or makeup case.
Different catheters need different supplies. If your child is using a standard, non-lubricated intermittent catheter, you should include the following:
1. Catheters: the number of catheters will depend on your child’s self-catheterization routine but a good baseline is to pack 6-10 catheters.
2. Lubricant: a small tub of lubricant such as k-y jelly can be helpful if your child is having trouble inserting their catheter. (If your child is using a hydrophilic catheter or another type of lubricated catheter, you may not need to include lubrication.)
3. Antibacterial cleanser: which is helpful in case your child is someplace that doesn’t have antibacterial soap or clean water.
4. Wash cloth or disposable towelette: these will be used to clean the genitalia area pre-catheterization.
5. Plastic bag(s): these are perfect for storing catheters. Include an extra bag if there’s no place to discreetly dispose of catheters once they’re used.
6. Container: in the unlikely case your child doesn’t have access to a toilet (like on a field trip or some other type of excursion), you should include a container for them to store their urine in.
You can also talk to a healthcare provider to see what types of supplies you should include in your child’s self-cathing school kit, and what type of catheter is right for your child.
4. Discuss proper hygiene
While packing a self-cathing kit will help your child practice intermittent catheterization discreetly, it won’t keep them safe from urinary tract infections if you don’t teach them proper hygiene. Making sure your child knows to wash their hands before and after self-cathing is the best way to prevent infection and practice clean intermittent catheterization.
When it comes to packing a kit for your child, you should include the following:
1. Antibacterial cleanser: this can be something as simple as hand sanitizer. It’s good to have in case your child doesn’t have access to warm water or antibacterial soap, which sometimes happens in public bathrooms.
2. Sterile Gloves: while these are optional, they’re good to have as a backup.
5. Establish a routine for self-cathing
Getting your child used to a set routine before they start attending school will help them when it comes to adjusting to the new environment. You can practice this routine in the weeks leading up to school by setting specific times for your child to self-cath at home, so they’re already used to their schedule when they start attending school.
Once they’re at school, you can also set timers for your child on their phone or watch to help remind them to self-cath at the same time throughout the school day. Another way to hold your child accountable is by letting their teacher know what times your child needs to self-cath, so they can remind your child when you’re not there to do so.
6. Make an emergency plan
Routines don’t always work, which is why it’s important to have a plan for emergencies. At first, school will be an unfamiliar place for your child. Introducing them to their teachers and school nurse early on will be essential in making them comfortable to reach out to these people when they need to.
Teach your child how to identify urinary tract infections. Even if they’re excellent at self-cathing at home, going to school can upset their routine, so mistakes are normal. Your child should know how to contact you or another family member in case of an emergency. This will help them (and you) feel comfortable with this new experience.
Self-cathing is an important part of self-care for children with spina bifida, spinal cord injuries, and other urinary retention or bladder problems. Teaching your child to self-catheterize allows them to be independent and self-sufficient.
You can start teaching your child to self catheterize between the ages of three and five, so your child is prepared to self-cath on their own when they start attending school. When teaching your child to self-cath, it’s important to check in with an occupational therapist, urologist, or other health care provider to make sure your child is ready to start intermittent catheterization on their own.
If you and your child are still feeling nervous about your child self-cathing at school, there are lots of other ways for you to ease your mind. A great option is to continue learning about the world of self-cathing. A great resource to look at that addresses some of the stigma surrounding self-catheterization is the Self-Cathing Experience Journal, which can be found online. Here you can learn more about self-cathing and its benefits.
The best resource, of course, is talking to your child’s healthcare provider. They can answer any questions you might have about transitioning your child to self-cathing at school, and will be a great help when it comes to questions you might have about any step in this article.
How to find the right catheter for your child
The right catheter can make or break your child’s self-catheterization experience. The more comfortable the catheter, the more likely your child will feel comfortable when it comes to catheterizing on their own at school.
Better Health carries a selection of intermittent catheters that can be reimbursed through insurance. To find the right catheter for your child, you can take our product quiz or check out our online catheter guides and intermittent catheter selection.