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March 26, 2012

Childhood bowel incontinence: New help online for kids with encopresis

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Help is now available online for children struggling with a frustrating soiling disorder known as encopresis .

Created by researchers at the University of Virginia Health System , the “online intervention” at offers children with encopresis an individually tailored, multi-week training program designed to help them overcome this problem.

Encopresis: A chronic problem

Children with encopresis cannot control their bowels, typically due to chronic constipation . More than 2 million children in the United States are estimated to have the condition, yet there has been a shortage of useful information online about how to manage encopresis and reduce the number of accidents, says Lee Ritterband, PhD, an associate professor of psychiatry and neurobehavioral sciences at the UVA School of Medicine . “You could find quite a bit of basic, descriptive information … but that was about it,” he says. “You couldn’t find the sort of information you’d need — the information about what you actually need to do to fix the problem.” But that has changed with the launch of .

Individualized training for bowel trouble

The online intervention at is colorful, cartoony and – most importantly – customized. All users of the paid service receive certain core lessons, but after the first week, the intervention begins providing information tailored specifically to the child’s needs based on answers to periodic evaluations. A child who has bowel trouble at school, for example, would be assigned lessons specific to that issue. “These are tailored programs users can go through,” Ritterband says. “They’re self-paced. Each user has a different experience based on their own symptoms or problems.”

‘Dramatic results’

UCanPoopToo uses kid-friendly explanations, animations and stories to actively engage children and parents. It provides education and ongoing tools to solve the physical, emotional and behavioral issues of encopresis. “We usually see some pretty dramatic results in the first six weeks,” Ritterband says.

The intervention is meant to be used in consultation with a physician or healthcare provider. By addressing the causes of encopresis , Ritterband says, children can be taught to use the bathroom without pain or fear. Family battles over using the bathroom can end and children can return to life without accidents.

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