Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Urine Nation (Please Read)


For those of you who work with boys who will become men, or boys who have become men. I am sick to death with what I see when I speak at conferences which have a lot of people with disabilities in attendance. Self advocate conferences, inclusive conferences, parent and children conferences, the works ... I speak at a lot of these. I've always been hesitant to write this but sometimes ...

silence isn't the solution ...

and this is one of those times.

I am at the point that when I know I am going to be speaking at a conference with a number of self advocates attending that I drink less water and cut back on the tea. I pee before leaving, I pee on arrival before anyone else gets there and I hope I'm good for the day.

That's worked for a few years.

But ... a few years later and peeing becomes something that can't be planned around. I am at the age, and all men know when they reach this age, that wearing beige pants is out of the question. So, three times in the past month I've had to go into a bathroom full of  men with disabilities at break time.

And every single time.


Let me say it again.

Every single time.

I go to the bathroom I see a line up of bare bums standing at the urinals. Men with disabilities who have pulled their shirts up and dropped their pants down. Nipples to Knees exposed - bare assed - men standing peeing. It's a shock, every single time.

Get this.

This is dangerous.

Really freaking dangerous.

If this happens in McDonald and a kid walks in and the man turns to say 'hi' ... an innocent hello can lead to disaster. This happens in a bus station and a rape, a murder, an act of brutality can happen.

What are people thinking?

Are people thinking?

If someone has to drop their pants they should be peeing in the stall. The solution is so simple that I can't believe I'm writing it. The best solution is to teach a man to pee without exposing himself - but if that's not possible, there is the stall. If the stall isn't teachable, then think of something else.

But don't go on with someone exposing his entire body to take a pee.

I don't know who taught these guys this. I'd like to say it's institutionalization but I've seen men far too young to have ever trod the land of the long corridor do exactly the same thing.

I talked to a teacher today who has a young man in his class who does this now!!! Teacher is concerned. I am concerned - this is a situation away from turning tragic, lives ruined.

And all because someone is not THINKING!!!!!

Good heavens.

I dream of the day where I go into a wash room at a conference for self advocates and am not reminded of the William Tell Overture, bum titty bum titty bum bum bum.


So, if you are responsible for the care of a male - could you check this out and then get to work. I don't want men being charged for sexual offending when they simply need to pee. I don't want someone taken advantage of, raped or beaten simply because someone was too oblivious to teach guys that ...

ahem - this may take you by surprise -

public nudity is a crime.


Heidi said...

Homes don't have urinals; many primary schools don't; most support workers in primary schools are female and as children become older, female staff back off from following individuals in to boys toilets; the "goal" that people look to achieve is "continence", which is then assumed (oh that word again)to mean "independence with toileting"... about 15 years ago a good friend of the boy I was working with (both 10 at the time) rushed up to me in class and said "I told him if he stands there with his ass hanging out (the boy was in a cubicle- with the door open- another little step to be considered!) I ain't never gonna go with him again - and he slammed the door and won't come out now". Hmmmm - it took a 10 year old boy to point out a situation we had failed to address...another of those "mistakes" which stay with you for ever and make you change your practice there and then. My thanks still go to Matthew!

Sher said...

I remember when I was new to the organization that I currently work for and I was accompanying a staff and individual supported to an app't about 45 minutes away . We had just driven through a town and the individual said he had to pee. Before I knew what was happening, we had pulled over, (I really thought we were turning around to drive less than 1 minute back to a store in town!) and the individual supported flung open the door, dropped his pants to his ankles and peed on the side of the road. Later, when I recovered from the shock and horror and we were back from the app't, I spoke with the staff about it and his response was, "It's rural Canada". My response was "he peed on the side of a well travelled highway and could have been arrested for indecent exposure!". You are preaching to the saved, brother. I have been saying this for years! To Heidi, sadly, most support workers in agencies are female as well, so the issue isn't addressed there either.

Colleen said...

It is also a problem for women who use public washrooms and do not shut the stall door. We deny that these people are sexual beings but predators sure don't don't deny that. It is up to staff to recognize situations that make people vulnerable and address those situations. Otherwise we might just as well serve them up on a platter.

Dave, I will never think of the William Tell overture in quite the same way again!


Donna Lee said...

There's a great youtube video that goes through the unwritten rules of male public bathroom use (if the link doesn't work look up "youtube Urinal Protocol Music Video").
It's been really useful to me as a woman teaching boys and teens as aside from the nudity/safety aspect, the social rules for bathroom use differ quite a bit between genders. Women don't do boys any favours in teaching bathroom etiquette unless we too know the right set of 'rules'.

Leah Spring said...

YAY!!! So glad someone finally said it. I do have to say though, having three kids with DS, two of them boys, it is not easy for a mom to teach boys to not drop their drawers! We're not in a men's restroom, nor do we see a lot of men peeing. As for urinals, our public school does have urinals. My 11 year old with DS is petrified of them (all public restrooms, really) so chooses to sit in a stall instead. My 7 year old will pee anywhere someone tells him to expose himself so he's all good! But he is 7, with the motor skills of an 18 month old, and barely "enough" to do any kind of what should I do with him????? He won't pee on a toilet, only standing up!

Liz Miller said...

I am going to post a link to this everywhere I can think of.

Princeton Posse said...

Well, what an interesting topic. As a nurse, I have assisted many fellows into the bathroom. I primarily work with the elderly and I have noticed that no matter what the health challenge, guys like to stand up to pee - even though they can barely stand. Just to make my life easier, I always suggest that they sit down and take a rest. This is safer for me and the client - no fumbling with clothing,zippers,trying to hang onto something stable - aiming almost impossible. I know that early toilet training is very ingrained but I would suggest that teaching our young men to sit down (occasionally at least) to pee may solve several challenges. Thanks for talking about something I have been thinking about for years!

CapriUni said...

To Colleen:

As a wheelchair-using woman, I would love to be able to close the stall door when I use a public bathroom. But often (not always, but...), the stalls are so badly designed that I can't.

Either: a) the doors open outward, and after I get my wheelchair in the stall, I can't reach behind my chair to close the door, b) the doors open inward, and are thus blocked by my chair when I pull up beside the toilet. Occasionally, I'll get a "golden mean" stall that gives me room to turn around and close the door after I'm inside.

The absolute best solution I've seen (only once in my life) was the public restroom in the airport in Shannon, Ireland: that stall had a folding door. Once I saw it, the answer seemed so obvious, I couldn't understand why I never saw it before, or since.

Colleen said...

Hi CapriUni:

Yes the "accessible" stall design often leaves a lot to be desired. So the design of the stall leaves you incredibly vulnerable. This is truly not acceptable.

When I wrote my response I was thinking of women who have intellectual disabilities who have never been taught that they need to shut the door. In this case, if they are supported by paid staff, it is staff who are negligent.

To coffeetalk - many years ago my brother, who does not have a disability, was driving home from his cottage in rural Quebec. He pulled over on a country road that seemed deserted to him to relieve himself in the bushes. Suddenly he found himself surrounded by RCMP officers who told him to get in his car and be on his way - apparently the Queen was due to drive down that road later that day.


GirlWithTheCane said...

Thanks, Dave.

ivanova said...

What a good point. So basic for safety. I think one of the problems is that so many of the staff who work with such guys when they are young are women and many maybe don't think about this or don't want to get involved. I worked with a boy when he was 8-12, prime learning-to-go-into-the-restroom-by-yourself time. He never had a male teacher, babysitter, OT, PT, speech therapist, or male therapist of any kind.
Then after a certain age, it would be an invasion of privacy to check out their pants skills, so their family, friends, and staff might not ever know they weren't taught the right stuff.

Leah Spring said...

To Princeton Posse, My husband says the LAST place you want a boy sitting down is a public men's room. He said he's never been in one that wasn't nasty, and that most grown men avoid having to sit down in a public mens room for that reason. He's been pretty insistent on teaching our boys to be independent and able to stand in the mens room.

Louise said...

Thank you Dave. This has gone out today to all the group leaders in my organization - and all the female ones were very shocked. How would we know?! Tomorrow I'll be circulating Donna's video link to inform us a bit better.
I'm fairly confident that we have taught all the men we support to use the stalls where necessary, but more by luck than judgment. Thank you for being so blunt about this. Sometimes we really need to be so specific about things to avoid misunderstanding. And danger and unnecessary vulnerability.

Bubbles said...

This seriously needs to be part of your lectures when dealing with support staff particularly!!!!

Anonymous said...

I have a bit of a different perspective. As a guy who works with guys with developmental disabilities we like to do "guy" things.

(too often in this field male clients in care are only offered activities that primarily female workers think are necessary but that's another issue.)

We like to go camping, hiking, etc in locations where facilities are not always readily available and the ability to "pee in a bush" are invaluable. Some of my male clients have only been taught to pee in a toilet sitting down and this can lead to problems and/or behaviors when the urge to go is there and no toilet is around.

I also noticed this one time when I took a client from Edmonton to Vancouver. We were driving through the mountains and he had to go, and go bad. There were no rest stops around. He was getting aggressive, as he didn't know how to stand to pee or squat down to go either. I finally was able to convince him to relieve himself in a cup and then dispose of it. He had been taught that going to the bathroom anywhere but in a real bathroom was dirty and wrong. This is NOT always the case.

I think the proper thing to do is to teach proper etiquette. Having someone know that they can do such things as long as they have privacy for themselves. A lot of clients are used to many people seeing their bodies in many different settings ie. bathing, dressing, etc and often lose that sense of privacy. As staff, we need to teach that and also make sure we respect their privacy when we are working with them in an intimate way. I know that even though I'm a guy, if I have to assist a male client (or female) with a bathing routine I will ask them to cover their private areas with a washcloth and have them do as much as they can for themselves so that they know it's not ok for them to just be on display or for just anyone to touch them.

Sorry for being so wordy, this topic hit a nerve with me too.


cerebral palsy & birth injuries said...

I loved that video , Donna. Pretty funny, but still kind of useful.

Anonymous said...

Any mother of boys is going to be familiar with this problem. We teach them not to hang on to that thing, but they have to in order to aim at the toilet.

The long and short of it is, that as long as there are public restrooms, boys under 15 should not go alone. And there should never be urinals - privacy should be expected everywhere, standing up or sitting down!

Anyone working in a position of leadership needs to be adult enough to address these sorts of things with kind words of guidance. There is nothing wrong with saying to young men - "No one needs to see your butt"! This is one of those situations no one will ever get away from - but it doesn't need to be a big embarrassment (that pun might be intended, if you get it)

Robert Sandler said...

I think a lot of this problem stems from the fact that a lot of caregivers for children with special needs tend to be women. (Caregivers in general for children). So they may not know the proper procedure for male toileting.

A case in point. My wife and I have two little boys who are currently toilet training, one of whom has Down Syndrome and who, incidentally is pretty much completely 'dry' at age three and a quarter. [so proud!!!]. Anyway, my wife and I were discussing your blog post today and we agreed that we need to teach both sons but especially the one with DS proper peeing to avoid Bare Bum Syndrome. I mentioned that I was already teaching him the importance of 'Shake, shake shake!' and she said that she hadn't even thought of that. Made me think that shaking and zipping may not be intuitive to those with different stuff to us men.

Princeton Posse said...

Thanks Leah H. I didn't think of that! All the toilets I have experience with look clean...but I am sure that isn't always the case.