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Making Public Restroom Time Easier For Kids With Autism

No one likes to talk about restroom time, but when you’re the parent of a kid with autism or other developmental disabilities, you don’t always get the option to observe societal modesty. When you’re loved one is getting to an age when they are using the public restroom by themselves, you have to know how to build an understanding of public restrooms and how to teach younger people how to use them safely, quickly and effectively. Lexington has developed a strategy list to protect the time and safety of young people as they develop their independence and learn how to use the public restroom alone.

Visual Aids and Social Stories

First and foremost, it’s always good to get familiar with challenges in an environment that’s safe and comfortable. Before you ever even begin the process of teaching your young one how to use the restroom, try reviewing pictures and visual aids at home that demonstrate everything young people might encounter in a public restroom.

Video aids also help incredibly for possible sensory concerns such as hand dryers, auto sinks and flushing mechanisms, as well as lighting and layout. Take time with whatever aid you have available so kids are fully prepared for what they might encounter.

Stranger Concerns

It’s important to let kids know that, while public restrooms are typically safe, they are places where they will encounter strangers. Typically, men’s restrooms have the most social “rules” that need to be observed, but there are expectations in a women’s restroom as well. These social norms should be something you should go over depending on which restroom a young person might be using. For example, in a men’s restroom, silence is often observed between people as they take care of their business. People may respond to a break in this silence, although most people are just trying to get in and get out without disturbance. In a women’s restroom, silence might not be the standard but there is still a socially observed lack of speaking while completing your business.

Strangers may not understand compulsions from people on the spectrum in a public restroom. It’s important that you teach young people what’s acceptable in this social situation. Furthermore, you need to make sure that young people know that public restrooms are not places to become acquainted with strangers. While most situations are generally safe, you never know the intentions of other people. The best results come from teaching young people to use the public restroom quickly and come back out.

Trial Runs

Trial runs are the best way to get young people used to the idea of a public restroom in a controlled way. Start with a simple walk-in observation when a restroom is generally empty to give a young person the understanding of the environment. Perhaps practicing standing at the sink, the dryer, near the urinal or in a stall comes next, just to get them even more familiar with the environment. Finally, take as much time as possible with supervision to get young ones used to using the public restroom. Some young people will take to it immediately, while others will take some time to develop this skill. Not everyone develops this skill, so it takes patience from caregivers to make this happen.

Using The Public Restroom

After the trial period, it’s time to learn the independent skill of using the public restroom alone. If you have been supervising, it’s best to pull back slowly, first standing outside of the stall as your young one uses the restroom, then standing near the sink, then falling back to just inside the door and finally standing just outside the door.

While you may allow young people to use the public restroom alone, you never want to go too far away from the situation. You want to help them build independence, but not let them get in a difficult situation. In certain states it’s necessary for you as a parent to train a loved one to use the public restroom alone as you are not allowed in the opposite gender’s restroom, even just for observation. Standing at or near the door and explaining to strangers what’s going on is almost always met with understanding and most people will happily wait until your young one has finished their business.

Alternative Restroom Solutions

If, for any reason, there are restrictions or concerns to using a public restroom with strangers, there are often alternative options in many public places. Family restrooms are becoming more and more prevalent for many public places to address these exact concerns. While it’s not always possible for every outing, many large public places that you might take a young person to should have some kind of mapped out list of restrooms, including a family restroom. The problem with family restrooms is that many people do not understand that they exist almost exclusively to make toiletting easier for parents and caregivers with people that can’t use a public restroom. You may have to wait for a family restroom to open, which isn’t always viable.

An Experienced Partner

If you are having trouble getting through this public restroom process, you should seek out an experienced partner with caregivers that are able to help smooth out the transition into public restroom use, or else provide trusted supervision so you don’t have to be concerned as a parent. Lexington Services is here for parents and caregivers that are overwhelmed with everything that they need to manage on their own. Let us help make processes like using the public restroom easier to manage. Call 480-900-1009 now for more information.

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