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Bedwetting in Children with Special Needs: Tips that Help

May 10, 2021 4 min read

A grateful mom of a 12 year old girl with special needs contacted us this week to ecstatically describe her daughter’s progress to dry nights.  This family had given up hope that she would ever be dry at night and weren’t given any encouragement from the medical community.  Using a wireless bedwetting alarm was, they thought, a last-ditch effort to overcome bedwetting.  They had little hope of any progress, let alone a month of dry nights! She wanted to make sure that our company spreads the word that children with special needs can surprise you and overcome bedwetting, especially if you use the right tools.

Bedwetting Alert/Alarm

Neither your child nor you, as parents, know when the wetting is happening.  That is why walking children to the bathroom on the parent’s schedule or in response to an alarm clock doesn’t work to teach your child to recognize when they need to urinate.

Bedwetting alarms sense wetness and sound an alarm and/or vibrate to alert the child and parents that wetting is happening.  There are over 50 different types of bedwetting alarms and some are better suited than others for children with special needs.

What to look for when choosing an alarm

Comfort

Wires and attachments that need to be worn on shirts or arms aren’t the most comfortable, especially if your child has sensory issues.  The moisture sensing underwear that is part of the Rodger wireless alarm feels just like regular underwear.  There is nothing that has to be attached to a shirt.

It will take several weeks of wearing the alarm before your child will be dry.  It’s worthwhile to choose one that is comfortable enough to use every night for a few weeks.

Acceptability

Choose an alarm that makes sense to your child.  Having special moisture sensing threads in underwear that’s not that much different from regular underwear makes sense.  You can even demonstrate with water on the underwear what will happen when your child wets during the night.

It will take several weeks of wearing the alarm before your child will be dry.  It’s worthwhile to choose one that is comfortable enough to use every single night during this time.

Ease of use

Ideally, your child should be able to hook up and turn on the alarm with little help.  Pulling on Rodger underwear is just like getting dressed.  Turning on and off the wireless alarm requires simply pressing a button.

Clear instructions

Practice what will happen during the night.  Trigger the alarm to sound.  Practice walking to the receiver plugged into the wall.  Push the blinking red button.  Walk to the bathroom and finish urinating.  Come back to the bedroom, change underwear and waterproof pad, go back to sleep.  Your child doesn’t have to wait for you to help them if they can do it independently.  But make sure they know you’re available to help if needed.

Parent participation

Parents need to help out initially with any child using a bedwetting alarm.  The Rodger alarm can come with a second receiver for the parent’s room, so you will be alerted, even if you sleep on a different level.

Record keeping and rewards

The Rodger wireless alarm has a unique App that reminds you to enter results each morning.  It’s easy to keep track of your child’s progress. Cooperation, responding to the alarm, the first dry night, etc are events that trigger a reward of your choice.

Additional Help

Discontinue use of disposable pants when you start using the alarm.  This is temporarily messy but gives your child a chance to feel the wetness while the alarm is sounding.

Use Bed Protection

Cover the mattress with a zippered vinyl or synthetic waterproof protection.  This can stay in place for as long as needed.

On top of the sheet, use a waterproof pad.  The washable pads with tuck-in sides save money and stay in place.  Kids like the soft quilted top layer to sleep on.  When one becomes wet, simply replace with a clean one to speed up middle-of-the-night clean up.

Smell Management

Urine causes an odor in clothes and bedding.  In order to completely remove the odor, an enzyme based cleaning product should be used.  You can use a spray on product, like Odorzyme or a product like Urine-Erase to remove old or set in stains.

General Tips

1. Place a nightlight in the hall and/or bathroom so you do not have to turn on many overhead lights.

2. Never punish your child.  This is a process that takes time and positive reinforcement is much more effective.

3.  Make sure your child drinks water throughout the day, enough so they need to urinate about every 2 hours. Well hydrated children aren’t excessively thirsty right before bed.

4.  Have your child urinate twice before bed, about 20-30 minutes apart. 

5.  If your child tends to be constipated, work with your health care provider to resolve this.

 Know that your child with special needs may take longer to get to complete dryness, but the pay-off is worth the time and effort.  He or she should have 14 consecutive dry nights before you discontinue the alarm.  My book, Seven Steps to Nighttime Dryness, gives specific guidance.


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