Tuesday, 26 July 2016


Children who are at school and who soil themselves frequently are almost certain to have accidents in the classroom.  For most kids with encopresis, and their parents, this is likely to be one of the most stressful aspects of the condition.  No child past nursery age wants to poo their pants in front of their peers, particularly not on a repeated basis, and be awarded nicknames such as ‘class baby’ or ‘stinky kid.’  Yet this can be the reality for some of the thousands of children who suffer from soiling problems.
Soiling can lead to a child being teased
or isolated at school, even when 
she is clean. (c)

Schools can vary a great deal in how they deal with pupils who soil.  The best schools employ staff who are willing to change young children out of soiled pants, provide private toilet facilities, devise a signal for a child to give if they need to leave the classroom quickly and work with parents to maintain a child’s dignity and assist them with their continence issues.  At the other end of the spectrum are schools who force parents to leave their place of work and come into school to change their child, refuse to allow children access to the toilet during lessons, blame parents for not potty training their child properly and even suspend pupils for having accidents.

I was amazingly lucky in that soiling caused me very few problems at infant school, even though I was having a lot of accidents elsewhere at the time.  While I sometimes went home in slightly (for me!) dirty pants, I only ever had one major accident at school.  Was this because I was more likely to use the toilets at school than at home?  Not a bit of it!  I can’t recall a single occasion when I opened my bowel in the toilet at infant school, I would simply withhold my poo while sitting in my seat and then carry on working.  In fact, as I had a relatively strong bladder for a child and went home at lunchtimes, I rarely used the school toilets at all. 

I hardly ever visited the school toilets
during my years at infant school, 

and never once sat on one to do a poo. (c)
My one major accident actually occurred on a field trip to an outdoor activities centre when I was 7 and soon to leave infant school.  My mother had told me beforehand ‘make sure you go to the toilet if you need to,’ but I did not feel the need do so.  However, towards the end of the visit, I realised that I had pooed myself.  And then I did what I always did in such circumstances, I carried on what I was doing as if nothing had happened, although I did try to avoid getting too close to my classmates or the teachers.  Despite this precaution I still expected the smell to give me away.

But I was again remarkably lucky: no-one discovered that I’d had an accident.  Nobody, child or adult, remarked on the odour I was carrying around with me, either during the remainder of our time at the centre or on the coach back to the school where our parents were waiting for us.  With her well-trained nose, however, my mother knew straight away when I got off the coach that I had soiled my pants.  I told her that there were no toilets at the centre.  Not surprisingly, she didn’t believe me.  Walking home with a friend of my mother and her daughter, my mother tried to explain the fact that I smelt of poo by telling her friend that I didn’t wipe my bottom properly.  It was probably no more convincing than my own lie.

If my accident had been discovered then I would have received a stern response.  My teacher was rather strict and was unsympathetic when it came to her pupils having toilet accidents.  The previous Christmas one girl, whom I shall call Melanie, wet her pants during a rehearsal for the school nativity play.  The whole class were sat together back in the classroom when the puddle on the stage was discovered.  ‘Melanie, have you wet yourself?’ called out our teacher as soon as she entered the room.  When the girl said ‘no’, our teacher demanded, ‘Let me feel your pants.’

Aged 6, I withheld my poo at infant
school but avoided soiling myself
in the classroom.
While the rest of the class watched transfixed, poor Melanie had to clamber over us all and stand at the front where our teacher put her hand up the 6 year old’s skirt and felt her underwear.  ‘You have!’ she exclaimed, before sending Melanie off to find the caretaker and tell him what she’d done.  ‘Filthy creature,’ our teacher added for good measure as the girl left the room.

Even today, the thought of my Year 2 teacher calling out, ‘James, have you pooed yourself?’, before checking my pants in front of the whole class and declaring them to be messy fills me with horror.

Why did I only have one accident at school despite my reluctance to park my bottom on school toilets?  I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that subconsciously my body knew that accidents in the classroom would be far more embarrassing for me than the ones I had at home and made extra effort to ensure they didn’t happen.  Whatever the reason, I’m very thankful to have largely avoided the humiliation of soiling at school.  As I stated in my earlier post, How I Stopped Soiling My Pants, at junior school I found the courage to use the school toilets when I needed a poo.

Sadly, many other children are not so lucky when it comes to avoiding soiling at school.  Dimity Telfer's worst experience of soiling herself happened at her school when she was 13, which she describes in her blog post: My Worst Day With Encopresis.


  1. James, Your Blog Has Me In tears. I can not imagine the humiliation. My enco 5 Yr old is starting School NEXT Week and I'm SO worried. Thank you for your honesty.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Jennifer, and for reading my blog. If you have not already done so, I would urge you to speak to your child's teacher about their soiling; some schools are really good at helping children with continence problems. Fingers crossed, your child may be lucky like I was and have few problems at school.

  2. I was not as luckily I had many accidents while at school. I smelled and many kids in class would notice when we were close in line. I would hear them say. Yuk who farted or it smells like poop. I knew it was me smelling and I would play it off as nothing.

    Then one day I must have been on strong laxatives that really made me go and of course I just did what I always did soil my pants. This time it must have shown through my light blue jeans. A few girls in my class must have saw it between my legs. They could not stop laughing. They called me poopie boy. They would just look at me and laugh at me for almost the rest of the school year.

    This really hurt me deeply. I was 12 years old and the laughing stock of the 6th grade. It took me years to ever want to go out with any person. I avoided girls that liked me in High School. I thought they would still laugh at me. I finally got around that but still I get flash backs to that embarrassing year. This still today makes me feel uneasy around people. Anxiety you might say....

    1. That must have been really hard for you, Eric, and I can understand why you avoided girls for so long after your accident. Soiling yourself at school and being discovered is a traumatic experience for any child, especially for a 12 year old, and many children are not very forgiving and seem to have long memories when it comes to teasing a classmate for a toilet accident.

      Sadly, many children with encopresis have to face this humiliation on a regular basis. I still cannot believe how lucky I was in avoiding major accidents in the classroom.

  3. I was never actually diagnosed with ADD or encopresis but that combination would have fitted me during school, especially up until I was 12. There wouldn’t have been a week I didn’t go home from school with soiled underwear at least 2 or 3 times. It seemed like none of the other students did it and no matter how hard I tried it still kept happening and only seemed to get worse, like my body was trying to embarrass me or punish me. The other students bullying and constant hounding didn’t help my situation and probably make it worse.

    No matter how hard I tied nothing changed so I eventually gave up and thought I was going to be the only student that couldn’t keep their underwear clean. When primary school finished and my holidays started I got determined to finally stop and didn’t have an accident the entire holiday break. That made me feel really proud of myself and by the time High school started I was sure I had finally got control of my body.

    The first day of high school I wanted all the students in my grade that that bullied me to know I had stopped and proudly stood up for myself when they started their usual sole destroying comments. Unfortunately they were right and I was wrong and it wasn’t long before my underwear was once again soiled.

    During my walk home from school that afternoon all I could think about was how much I had failed with my promise to myself.

    1. I also couldn't go potty at school ever,wound up with constipation,so by age 13,I had to get weekly Fleet enemas from my step mom.
      I became Dependant on her enemas it continued every week til I was 22.(I always waited till rest of family was gone in the morning to ask mom for enema)
      Mom noticed my underwear were always stained when I took them off for the enemas.
      She took me to doctor he said I had mega colon from holding 3 to 6 days at time.
      Back them (1970s)enemas were the only treatment, so doc told my mom give me enemas, if I didn't go potty by day3.
      Mom kept a bm diary to keep track,I got over 400 enemas age 13 to 22,
      I wonder if I got addicted to her enemas.
      Now I'm a single dad with 15 year old daughter, who has severe constipation, I have to give her fleet mineral oil enemas once a week also
      Is constipation hereditary?

    2. Hi, sorry to hear that you also had bowel problems when you were younger and couldn't use the school bathrooms. I have never had an enema, but I know that these are still often used to treat constipation.

      Sorry also that your daughter has severe constipation and you have to give her enemas, I hope that she is soon able to overcome this. I don't think there's evidence to suggest that constipation or encopresis is hereditary. Through the internet I know of thousands of parents whose children have bowel problems, and only a handful had encopresis themselves, which suggests that this is down to coincidence rather than genetics.

  4. Hi Anonymous,

    At least your step mom helped you deal with your situation.
    I was easily distracted by anything going on around me, especially if it was something new and exciting. That usually meant I either didn’t pay attention to my body or just ignored it if it meant having to go to the toilets at school or anywhere else other than home. The only time I remember getting in trouble for it from my mother was when I did it at home, which wasn’t very often. Her solution was to sew additional thick material layers in my underwear which mostly worked at disguising my problem but didn’t help me deal with it

  5. Now that I’m older and understand bodily functions I realized the reason I had so many accidents during primary and the first two years of high school was constipation from withholding the need to go. Like a lot of kids, I was always constipation but avoiding using the toilets at school made it much worse. When I tried go at home the logs were so big it hurt, but I also realized letting it come out by itself didn’t. The problem with that was it was almost always during class or while I was out doing something on the weekend. My parents just thought I was lazy or doing it on purpose and I believed my body was different to everyone else. My logs were always big and very firm and without much odor, so I usually just kept wearing my underwear until I got home. The only time I changed them at school or during the day on weekends was if a teacher or someone said something but that hardly ever happened. Either they didn’t know or didn’t want to say anything. That didn’t help my situation worse my convincing my parents I was doing it on purpose.