When Evan was younger…potty trained but not yet verbal enough to explain his fears and concerns…public outings and trips were nightmarish. Evan was terrified of public bathrooms, especially ones with automatic flushing potties and hand dryers. Back then he couldn’t express his fears…he would just meltdown if I dragged him into a public bathroom. How was I to know the sensory overload generated by an autoflush toilet? Later, he told me that a hand dryer looks like a scary open mouth that might bite him or swallow him. Grateful that he could express his anxiety, yet I felt guilty for the many instances that I forced him into a restroom. When I understood his fears, public toilets were no longer a viable option.
Long car trips presented extra challenges since poor Evan couldn’t tolerate rest area bathrooms or bathrooms in most public places. It was much later that we discovered that Cracker Barrels had regular flushes and no hand dryers, but by then, Evan wasn’t going into any public restroom for any reason. Period.
Ed used to say that if Evan needed to go badly enough, he’d suck it up and endure the hand dryers and the auto flush toilets. I knew better. It was torture for him. So when we traveled, I used to take Evan off to a distant tree and let him pee there. If he needed to poop, I’d support him under his arms while he pooped under the tree. I brought tissues so he can wipe his little butt. Ed almost died of embarrassment each time this happened, worried what other people would think.
Did I like that Evan was pooping behind a tree in a rest area? Negative. But I liked less the thought of my baby, terrified to go into a public restroom, trying to hold his pee and poop for 8 or 9 hours. His well-being comes before my embarrassment. I do whatever is necessary to take care of my boys, whether conventional or kooky. Ed is solidly in the “traditional” camp. Being unconventional is solidly in my wheelhouse. “Normal” is overrated and boring.
Through the years, and through many school experiences, I would repeatedly and successfully advocate for Evan’s potty needs. In one elementary school, they had a plumber come out and change an automatic flushing toilet in a quiet admin area back to a regular flush, just for Evan. In high school, Evan was excused from having to enter the locker rooms for P.E. (hand dryers), and was authorized to use the private, regular flush restroom in the nurse’s office.
As a new autism mom, I didn’t realize how much advocacy would be involved in raising my kids on the spectrum. Over the years, I would learn that almost anything within reason, can be arranged as far as accommodations within the academic setting, including suitable restroom facilities.