Bathrooms and Autism

The bathroom is such a controversial thing these days. 

So many people are worried about who gets to go where. Honestly, I don’t care. This isn’t about that issue. Well, not directly. This is about fear. A mother’s fear. Or could be a father’s fear.

There are so many challenges that come with having an autistic child. Meltdowns, communication, potty training, the list goes on forever.  Working through them is just part of normal life when you have a special needs child. I’ve learned to take most of them in stride, but there is one that still terrifies me.

Public bathrooms.

My son is 11 now. If he was a normal kid he would be going to the bathroom by himself in the men’s room. However, he is not normal. I don’t mean that in a bad way; it’s just a fact. He still has communication problems and often motor skill difficulties. He gets distracted easily and forgets what he is doing. I often have to remind him that he is in the bathroom to go pee not to play.

When we are out an about we have to use public toilets. If we are in a really busy place with lots of people, I often don’t feel safe letting him go into the men’s room alone. I will often take him into the ladies room because I can keep an eye on him and know he is safe. Believe me, I get lots of dirty looks from the women in the bathroom. I really don’t care. Safety first. My child is billions of times more important than your opinion of me.  There is no telling who is in the bathroom or what they would do to him and it’s not like he could tell me if something does happen. And I know it isn’t just me. I know that dad’s with their daughters who have special needs suffer the same anxieties about the women’s room.

Another reason I keep him with me is the fact that he wanders. If it is just him and me and we both have to go, I can’t be sure he won’t be out before me and just wander off. Who knows what would happen to him?

Now comes the real problem. He is getting more independent. He knows he is a boy and he wants to go to the men’s bathroom. We stopped at a truck stop the other day because we really needed the bathroom. He wanted to go into the men’s room. My heart was racing and I ran into the women’s and peed as fast as I could so I would be done before him and be waiting for him when he was through. I was so scared that I wouldn’t be fast enough or that there would be someone in the bathroom that could hurt him.

It’s terrifying! Like we, as parents, need more to be afraid of or worried about. Going out an about in public is hard enough with meltdowns and over-stimulation issues. Now this. How old can he be before it gets too controversial and we end up in some kind of confrontation with an offended self-righteous bathroom guardian?

This is another one of those moment when life just seems too complicated and unfair. I guess the best I can do is try to pick and choose where we go because some bathrooms are better situated  for things like this. It’s just a single bathroom or it’s a family bathroom, but it’s not always that easy. One more struggle that must be dealt with and overcome, somehow.

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2 thoughts on “Bathrooms and Autism

  1. Our son is only seven and is still in nappies but is using the toilet every now and then which is positive. I had always thought though that we’d continue using disabled toilets when out and about for years to come but never considered that he might get to an age where he’d want to go independent of us and what would happen if it were just him and his mum!

    My boy is non-verbal but if your son could talk would him having a phone on speaker when he’s away from you so you’re in communication be a practical solution so you could hear if there was a problem and he could talk to you whilst you were in another bathroom? As you’ve said just another hurdle us parents have to jump over together with our child. Keep strong and do your best that’s all we can ever do.

    • Don’t worry, my son is still struggling with bathroom issues. We’ve only this year stopped using night time pull ups. It’s hard but it’ll happen. That’s a really good idea for keeping in touch but I don’t know if it would work out. He’s so easily distracted that he might forget the phone in the bathroom or decide to play with it instead lol. Just have to hope for the best. We’re all in this together.

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