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.

I love my industrious hubby.

Only been home a day and he’s already fixed the latch on the door so my son won’t wander off, replace our bedroom light fixture that my son broke, replaced my daughter’s faulty light, and then took on a huge project that has been hanging over my head for ages. The bathroom floor.

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Someone long ago put carpet in the bathroom. I don’t know why. I’ve never understood carpet in the most watery area of the house.
My two problems with carpet in the bathroom are :
1. Splashing in the tub.
My son is some sort of magician at splashing. He can get the entire bathroom wet even with the shower curtain closed.
2. Potty training.
My son is 8 and Autistic and still learning about going potty properly. He’s getting better but his aim is awful. He doesn’t have to fine motor skills to hit the toilet consistently. Needless to say the carpet reeks.

It doesn’t matter how much I shampoo or scrub it always smells nasty and moldy. I hate it. I’ve been threatening to rip out the carpet for months but I didn’t know what was underneath and what I was going to have to do to fix it. Plus I would have to have it all back together again for baths at night. Routines are essential to my son’s stability.

So this time when my hubby got his R&R week he’s been super industrious and ripped out the carpet and the toilet. Replaced all the seals and fixed the leaks and replaced the carpet with vinyl tile flooring.

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Walking on a clean, beautiful new floor is a wondrous feeling. I love my hubby so much. He’s been laughing at me because I’ve been thanking him every ten minutes.