This guest post is by Christina Abernethy, a wife and a mom of three. Christina’s daughter is 14 and her twin boys that are 5. One of her son’s is on the autism spectrum. Christina us active in the autism community and serves on Autism Speaks Walk and grant committees. This piece originally appeared here. We love guest blogs! If you’d like to contribute a blog to have your story told to our audience you can learn more here.
I am writing today because I have been thinking about things that our little Bubba has a hard time with and I’m trying to come up with ways to help him better. And especially when we are in public!
If you follow my fitmamaspeaks page on Facebook, then you know our son, Ethan, was diagnosed with autism when he was two years old. Along with his autism diagnosis, he struggles with sensory problems also called sensory processing disorder. Most children and adults with autism struggle with sensory issues. These are things like loud noises, bright lights, crowds, certain smells, and different textures. If any of these things are unexpected it makes it that much harder for them. These sensory problems are not our children just “not liking” them, they are mentally and physically afraid, to the point of shaking, crying, and yelling.
One of our biggest struggles in public are the restrooms. We try to go into the family restroom but they are not always available. But even when in the family bathroom, there are so many things that our son can’t handle. For example, the hand dryers. These scare my son so bad that he starts shaking all over, crying, holding his hands over his ears and running out of the bathroom. The toilets that flush on their own are also a big problem. He doesn’t know that it’s coming and when it does he just holds on to me for dear life. The lights are always bright, sometimes loud music playing, and typically pretty loud every place we go.
My heart just breaks for him because he can’t go to the bathroom in public. We have tried headphones, covering his ears with our hands, single person restroom. And not one of them are “sensory friendly”
I have been thinking about this long and hard and I am looking for help to get a “sensoryfriendly” restroom or change the current family restroom to a more “sensory friendly” environment. This would include getting rid of the hand dryers and having paper towels (or another towel option), having manual toilets that do not flush on their own, change the lighting to softer bulbs that aren’t as bright, and sinks that are manual instead of automatic start. These are just a few of the ideas that I think would make a huge difference.
I made a short video about my ideas and shared it on Facebook to see what kind of feedback it would get. Within the first 24 hours, it was viewed almost 3,000 times, liked, comments, and shared too. It is receiving a ton of positive feedback and I would really like to keep this moving forward.
1 in 68 children are diagnosed with autism and our children then grow up to be adults with autism. Autism never goes away. Therefore the sensory problems and struggles that our children are facing could be life long.
All I want to do is make things better/ easier for our son and other families affected by autism or sensory problems. I believe this could impact our community in a very positive way and that is why I am writing, making videos, and sharing as much as possible!
And my question to you is… would your son or daughter benefit from a restroom that was more sensory-friendly? Maybe another family member or friend? I would love to hear your feedback.
Our children deserve the help they need to be part of the community and feel more comfortable in their surroundings in public.
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