Toilet Talk –  workshops and blue sky ideas to develop early stage technology to improve quality of life for children living with incontinence

Exploration of taboo, unmet clinical needs with children and their families, and early stage technology development

Project Partners

  • NIHR Devices for Dignity MedTech Co-operative
  • Eat Fish Design
  • IMPRESS network (Incontinence Management & Prevention through Engineering and ScienceS)
  • Lab4Living at Sheffield Hallam University

Health and Care Requirement

Approximately 900 000 children and young adults are affected by incontinence in the UK, whether as a result of medical problems or issues with toilet training. Although children represent a smaller percentage of the population with continence issues, the impact upon them should not be underestimated. The effect on a child’s wellbeing at school (risk of bullying, potential lack of confidence in participating in social or sporting activities) may have lasting implications for the rest of their lives. Despite this, the effects of incontinence are not well understood and require further research.

The Project Concept

To respond to this challenge, a partnership between Devices for Dignity and IMPRESS was formed. Lab4Living researchers were also invited to join the team to help design and facilitate a bespoke Family Day event, using creative methods to learn about the lived experiences and unmet needs of children living with incontinence, and their families. The aim of this workshop was to inform future innovation of relevant medical technologies in this area, to better support these families in their day to day lives. The stakeholders were children with continence issues, their parents and siblings, healthcare professionals, engineers and researchers looking into incontinence and its effects.

A range of bespoke tools were developed in collaboration with an illustrator to creatively and collaboratively explore the challenges faced by children with incontinence issues. These tools aimed to place the young people as the experts in the rooms, reflecting on their wider life (i.e. their hobbies, friends, family) and took an asset-based approach to highlight the skills and resources they already leverage to address their personal challenges. Later, ideation activities were used to empower the families as inventors to highlight and address any unmet health needs.

D4D are providing:

  • Identification and validation of unmet need
  • Regulatory advice
  • Facilitation of co-design workshops
  • Securing funding to develop the prototype technology

Next stage of development:

A range of ‘blue sky’ ideas generated at the workshop, in response to the challenges identified. Based on this input, two further workshops were organised by the project partners with children and families to develop a smart watch app to help children develop regular toileting behaviours. Early feedback has been extremely positive; we are currently identifying project partners and funds to take this forward.


Details to be confirmed.