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Autism: Public Restrooms and Sensory Issues - Finding Solutions for the overwhelm of taking children with sensory needs into public bathrooms.

A major aspect of autism is sensory based triggers.  My son doesn’t notice many things around him. Our youngest daughter on the other hand, any things can trigger her. Most of the time, it’s a change in schedule or routine.   When thinking of possible triggers, public restrooms are a definite trigger for sensory issues.

Autism: Public Restrooms and Sensory Issues

Today’s random trigger was the automatic flushing toilets at the mall. We don’t go to the mall very often this time we decided to go to an outside mall when we got there I decided to take the kids to the restroom now this is pretty normal for us it’s just one way to make sure we have less that’s what today however with a completely different Mall with a completely different bathroom.

Upon locking my own stall door, I can hear my daughter begin to fuss.  I try to assess what is wrong 4 doors down from with in my stall. After exiting, I find my daughter standing there mad and yelling about the “stupid toilet.” My 10-year-old daughter abandons ship and exits the bathroom to inform Daddy of the meltdown.

Now begins the ten minute discussion on using these evil contraptions. She tells that they just go off whenever they feel like it and things of the such. Apparently, it’s my fault that there isn’t a way to turn them off.

Autism: Public Restrooms and Sensory Issues - Finding Solutions for the overwhelm of taking children with sensory needs into public bathrooms.

That Automatic Flushing Toilet: The cause of our public restroom sensory issues!

I finally convince her that if she either need to sit on the toilet or pee herself. I honestly did tell her I didn’t care which she chose, but I preferred her to pick the first.  Then the stand-off begins. She can’t pee (or even change her socks) with someone in the room with her, but doesn’t want me to leave.  Once again, it’s my fault and the door is slammed in my face. Now that the battle of getting her in there was over, I thought I was in the clear. Ya right!

Our arch nemesis has struck! The automatic toilet flushed before she was done! Out she runs, yelling at me. I convenience her to calm down long enough to wash her hands.  The rest of the day, she stays fixated on the evil automatic toilet at the mall. Those automatic flushing toilets had thrown our entire day off.

Sensory Issues: Just Part Of Raising A Child On The Spectrum

This is the day-to-day life of raising a child on the autism spectrum.  For us, we have three on that are autistic.  They are totally different, and therefore we have a higher chance of things like this happening several times a day in our home.

There are times that I can talk them through new or disliked scenarios.  If I know in advance that is.  Something like the automatic flushing toilets, I wasn’t expecting.  Now on out, I will try to avoid those toilets for her when possible.

Restrooms and Sensory Issues: Our Solution

As for our solution to the automatic flushing toilets.  We now carry post it notes in our survival bag to place over the sensors before she goes in.  This is an easy fix to the problem.  It works and isn’t permanent.  All I have to do is go in after she’s done, throw it away, and wash my hands.  It works so much better than the ten minute argument with her!

When possible, one of us will go into the restroom first.  Having knowledge of how busy the restroom is, if there are automatic toilets (or hand dryers) and just how loud it is makes everything easier!

The other thing we do are keep her noise canceling headphones on hand at all times!  The only major rule is that she cannot touch them at all while in the bathroom.  I don’t think I have to explain that one lol.

Autism: Restrooms and Sensory Issues

When it comes to public places , there’s always a chance for a sensory trigger.  Learning your child’s needs will greatly help reduce those triggers. 

What is your best tip when it comes to restrooms and sensory issues? Let us know in the comments below!

Alicia Trautwein is an autism parenting coach living in Missouri. She is the creator behind The Mom Kind, a website dedicated to parenting neurodiverse families.  She is one of the head creators behind the #WeLoeveMoms campaign and is also featured in the "Amazing Moms" coffee table book by Hogan Hilling & Dr. Elise Ho.  She shares her expertise along with her experience in parenting children, both with and without autism.

4 Thoughts on “Autism: Public Restrooms and Sensory Issues”

  • I can totally understand why that may trigger an episode. I mean my kids gets scared with those too, and even those new hand dryers. Keep bravin through the hard days mama! xo

  • My middle child is now 10, but when he was younger before we knew he was on the spectrum (aspergers) I had no idea why he was so set off both those things, but he was. Now he is okay …. more prepared and has had more experiences of them so no meltdowns but he doesn’t care for them.

  • Oh my…spot on…why are there loud sounding automatic toilets and hair dryer sound hand dryers 🙁 …Thanks for the tip about post it notes…Now I have to find an alternative for hand driers….thank god for absorbent jeans

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