Constipation: new book tackles poo taboo

Latest Beyond Words book looks at the importance of healthy bowels for people with learning disabilities and autism

Latest Beyond Words book looks at the importance of healthy bowels for people with learning disabilities and autism

The Trouble with Poo is a new picture book just published in the Beyond Words series.

Aimed primarily – but not exclusively – at people with learning disabilities and autism, this candid and humorous graphic novel tells the story of someone who does not understand why they have problems going to the toilet, and what can be done about it.

Signs and symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and prevention are covered through colourful illustrations, which are followed by text offering advice and support. The book can be used by people with learning disabilities and autism themselves, carers, learning disability nurses, support workers and other health professionals.

Constipation – life-threatening if left untreated

Figures from the Learning Disabilities Mortality Review for 2018 show that untreated constipation can be life-threatening. While it occurs in 10% of the general population, it is more common among people with learning disabilities and autism, and is estimated to occur in 20-50% of this group, despite being easy to treat if spotted early.

Among the publicised cases are that of Richard Handley, who died aged 33 in 2012 from complications of constipation, and Sally Lewis, 55, who died from faecal impaction in 2017.

Baroness Sheila Hollins is series editor of Beyond Words, which began in 1989 and now has more than 50 books on topics ranging from diabetes and epilepsy to bullying and volunteering.

‘We just don't talk about it’

She said: ‘We just don’t talk about constipation, do we? How often do we ask each other if our ‘poos’ are okay? And yet that is what we need to be able to do if the risks of untreated constipation are to be avoided.

‘If this book saves one life, it will have been worth it. I commend the authors for their brave and humorous approach to this subject.’

Speaking at the book’s launch in London this week, co-author, self-advocate and trainer Jackie Downer said too many people with learning disabilities are dying from complications of constipation.

‘We are nearly in 2020 and what has really changed? People are dying even now.’

The book is designed to read alone or in a group, and is available in print or as an e-book.

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