Sunday, 11 October 2009


I was recently on a Child Protection course and we were asked to consider various scenarios and state whether or not we considered them to be child abuse. One example was of a father undressing his 14 year-old daughter. We all agreed that this was inappropriate and therefore abusive. We were then told that the father was a single parent and his daughter had cerebral palsy.

The point, which was well made, was that we shouldn't rush to make judgements until we have all the facts.

This got me thinking how society's views on things have changed during my many years. In the 1970's when I started out as a fledging special needs teacher, it was not only accepted that a male would change a teenage girl's nappy, it was expected. I did so, in a totally open situation. The changing area had three tables and the three staff busy changing, would commonly exchange banter as they removed soiled nappies, wiped the children clean and put on fresh incontinence pads etc.

I recall one occasion when I had them 'rolling in the aisles' when one teenage girl I was changing, had an exceptionally large bowel motion during the process. For the benefit of my two colleagues, I provided her with verbal encouragement with 'Keep going Susan, I can see the head!'

I remember that sometime in the 1980's, it was decided that each changing table should have screens 'to preserve the children's dignity'. The problem was, that in preserving their dignity, staff were then screened from view as they provided what is now called 'intimate personal care'. A debate ensued and I began to ask a female member of my team to assist me when I changed a girl (but not when I changed a boy). A few years later, it was formally agreed that it was not appropriate, for males to change females - something I had been doing for many years. However, females could continue to change males.

Given the recent case of the female nursery school worker who abused the children in her care, it seems to me that the only solution is to stipulate that two staff must always be present during intimate care situations but sadly, even this arrangement would be open to abuse.


  1. Having a disabled child it was something that i wondered about then i realised that that to be a specila needs teacher requires a certain amount of courage and kindness and decided that the men in the proffession was just as proffessional than the women. While i do understand about the dignity of the children it is also about the safety, a tricky situation. Though i did tell me husband that he would be changing her nappies at 14 , 16, 25 etc etc, as he was her father. My daughter left us last year to go dance with the angels but i meant what i said, he was going to deal with puberty, bras, periods the lot.

  2. Tony, there's such a fine line with those things and sometimes I have taken pictures of my grands where they are bathing or swimming naked and I worry that someone will take them out of context and it will all come back on me as something dirty or pornographic. Why can't life be simple again? Oh yes.....I really do know the answer to that question.

  3. It never ceases to amaze me how sick people can be. You're right, of course. Even having two people would not ensure the safety of the child. *sigh*

  4. Times have really gotten bad, haven't they? :-(

  5. What will things be like in another 10 years?