Two of James Parkin's books, 'A Child Like You' and 'Adventures in Potty Training' are based on his experiences of constipation and soiling as a child. In this blog post, James explains how he hopes his work can support and inspire children who suffer with pooing problems.

The seeds of my book were sown nearly 40 years ago when, as a three-year old, I found out that I could make the feeling that I needed to poo go away by breathing inward and clenching my bottom. I took advantage of this discovery many times when I did not want to stop what I was doing to go to the toilet. It was a handy trick, but I would never have done it if I’d known what the consequences would be: years of soiling, constipation and stomach aches, along with frequent reprimands for messing my pants and feelings of embarrassment and shame. I’d wrongly thought I could get away with not pooing and I paid the price for my mistake.

It was a long time before I made the link between avoiding the toilet and the dirty pants which came later, and many years before I was able to completely break my ingrained habit of withholding, especially when away from home.

At the age of seven I started to make more effort to use the toilet every time I needed it, and the soiling became far less frequent, but I still had occasional accidents up to the age of 11.

What I particularly recall from those days is the feeling of isolation caused by believing that I was the only school child in the world who still pooed his pants. It was a belief that I retained long after I stopped soiling.

Discovering I wasn't alone

Years later I discovered that other boys and girls had this problem and that it had a name - ‘encopresis’ (this term tends to be used in America rather than the UK). With the arrival of the internet I discovered just how common it was and how it affected thousands of children and teenagers. But it remained a topic that nobody wanted to talk about outside of cyberspace, and it never seemed to be discussed on television.

How many other children also believed that they were the only one who had soiling problems and were miserable as a result? I suspected that the answer was a lot.

No help for older children

I found that there were picture books available for young children who soiled, but nothing for the many older children with the same condition. Also, while children’s writers such as Jacqueline Wilson had showed that a bedwetter, like Tracy Beaker, could be a heroine, there seemed to be no mainstream books in which the lead character was a child who pooed herself.

It looked like there was no-one for the older child who had encopresis to identify with, no-one who shared their problem and could act as a role model. I decided that it was time to turn my own experiences into something that could help the children of today. It was time for a child who soiled to become a hero!

A Child Like You

A Child Like You, my story for older children who soil, is the result. I've tried to make it realistic, but positive. Beth, the lead character, has painful memories from when she first began soiling, but she is now able to manage her condition and is well on the way to becoming completely clean. Her thoughts and feelings largely mirror my own, although her experiences are also based on those of other children with encopresis, such as taking off her soiled pants and hiding them, which I never did. Drama is provided when another girl smells that Beth has messed herself in assembly and she fears that the whole class will soon know her embarrassing secret.

It would be nice if children who don’t have toilet problems read the book to get an idea of what it is like to live with encopresis. But my main objective is to show older children who soil that, with help, they can manage and overcome their condition, and, most of all, that they are not alone.

I have recently published 'A Boy Like You' and 'A Girl Like You', which can be bought in ERIC's shop.