Saturday, November 7, 2009

Another thing you need to tell me

I've said a few times that parents need to tell me beforehand if their child has any issues I need to know about. Parents tend to be very good (overly good) about alerting me to allergies. However, they're not as good at alerting me if their children have developmental or behavioral issues. Autism, ADHD, whatever. The kid might just be A Great Big Jerk -- I like to know that in advance, too.

Parents: One thing that you might want to bring to my attention is if your child has a severe anxiety disorder of some kind. Let me give you an example.

Last week I was teaching my favorite class of kids. One of the girls, a nerdy, bespectacled whiz kid named Beth* started to tell me halfway through that she missed her mommy. The girl is in third grade. She looked fretful and because she'd pulled the same thing last week, I told her that her mother would come for her in half an hour, and she only had to wait until then.

Five minutes passed. "I miss my mommy."

Fifteen minutes passed. "I miss my mommy."

Twenty-eight minutes passed. Two minutes left in the class. By now, she looked really troubled. She started crying. Her face got hot and flushed----she up and told me she was "feeling very hot." I sat her down and asked her to just breathe, and that her mommy would see her in two minutes and she didn't have to worry. She continued to stress, hyperventilate, and freak out----until she looked at me and told me she had to go to the bathroom.

I reached for her hand and said we'd go together. She shook her head and said, "I'm leaking." All of a sudden, she wets her pants. An eight-year-old girl just wet her pants. Not a little bit, either. Her bladder exploded. In the span of three seconds, there was a small puddle of urine on the floor. Five seconds, and it looked like someone spilled a two-liter bottle of lemonade.

This is not the first time I've had a child wet herself in my class. I had a five-year-old girl fuss and whine for a few seconds and then wet herself during a summer camp----weird, because she'd been just fine about using the bathroom before. But she was five. Five! I remember having accidents when I was five. Beth, on the other hand, is eight, and the accident clearly came as a result of some kind of freakish panic attack.

Immediately following the accident, it was like the dam breaking had relieved all her pressure. She immediately felt better. She didn't seem remotely concerned that she was sitting on a urine-soaked bench in urine-soaked pants, swinging her feet above a urine-soaked floor. The other students were starting to make comments and I had to swoop in and keep them occupied while one of the dads (the school janitor!) was kind enough to grab his mop and clean it up without me even thinking to suggest it (the last time I had to clean it up myself, so I'm so thankful he was there). She looked up at me, the red color fading in her face, and said: "Hey, at least it's cooling me down!" I appreciate the optimism, I suppose.

When her mother finally arrived, we were still cleaning up the mess. Beth still had wet clothes. Her mother didn't seem the least bit concerned. In fact, she acted like it happened all the time.

HELLO? If your child has a disorder which causes them to have panic attacks until they wet themselves, I NEED TO KNOW THIS. It would prepare me. Maybe give me a tip on how to help her cope with it. Maybe I could send her off to the bathroom before she pees all over the floor. Maybe I just wouldn't be fucking horrified by the situation if I knew it was coming. Do her teachers know? Did they find out the hard way? This is something you NEED to mark on her health form. Seriously.

Just... fuckin' seriously.

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