As a Special Needs Parent, Why I don't Look Up in a Public Restroom

As a Special Needs Parent, Why I don't Look Up in a Public Restroom

I had occasion for a family outing yesterday. It was absolutely perfect. Seriously, couldn’t have ever asked for better. But I noticed something about myself.

Part of our outing included the feeding of the sting rays. It was amazing. Not only because the kids were wanting to touch the sting rays, but because J wanted to touch the sting rays… he never wants to do that! We went for it.

Feeding time came at 11:50 am. You could see the sting rays getting anxious. One in particular slapped his way around the outer rim of his swimming ring, all along on the wall, almost like he was daring someone… anyone… to throw him a sardine. “Go Ahead! Make My Day!”

Feeding Sting Rays$2.63 later, we had our trays of mini sardines ready to feed. Getting these into J’s fist was a challenge. Getting B’s arm long enough to reach into the water (he’s a little smaller than my other two) and getting O to even be willing to put a sardine in between her fisted fingers and stick said fisted fingers into the water for the purpose of feeding a creature she has had little contact with and had little knowledge of, was a challenge as well. But it happened.

And then, there’s the washing. “Things” float in the water… it is, after all the water home of sea creatures. We needed to wash up. Anti-bacterial wash didn’t seem enough for the occasion + anti bacterial soap dispensers strategically placed behind the sting ray pool EMPTY = headed to the unisex / family public restrooms to scrub off “things”.

I love these places. These days, I’m often thinking of Cheryl, and her writings with her son John. This post in particular. Mostly because it rings true. What do you do when you’re of different genders and in need of taking your opposite gendered child into a public restroom?

The unisex restroom had a line outside. Another mom with (seemingly) typical kiddos – one girl, one boy. As we walked by the ONLY unisex restroom, we heard the wrestling of a young kiddo testing the locks on the door… I know that restroom fun… it kinda stinks.

My choices were to have my kids wait. In a hall. For the current occupiers to leave said SINGLE restroom, have the waiting party enter, do their business and leave, and THEN head into the restroom… just to wash hands. Meanwhile, J was making noises and saying random “toiletry” words – something he does when he’s completely overstimulated. OR, take my crew into the ladies room and have all the on-lookers be damned.

I chose the latter.

And herein is where I noticed something. I didn’t look up. I didn’t care (in truth) if others looked at me (and my rather tall 9 year old boy with special needs) and wondered why I would bring a boy into the room. I didn’t look for eyes of disgust, disbelieve or confusion, nor understanding. I tended to my kids. I made sure they washed their limbs (in some cases up to their armpits) because, well, my job at the moment was getting 3 kids cleaned of sting-ray-pool-goo with my mom’s help. That was all.

Everyone else… well, they could choose to take a lesson, gain understanding or acceptance or be puzzled and appalled by my choices, have an pre-understanding, empathy or compassion. Whatever their choice, it’s their choice. I just needed to get my kids cleaned and keep our good day from oozing down a drain of overstimulation.

This hasn’t always been this way. It’s taken 9 years of practice and hundreds, possibly thousands, of situations where I had to make similar decisions. Maybe I’ll keep this idea of how to run through life, possibly it will change… possibly I will accidentally look up one day and see an expression that will turn me this way or that… but this is where I am now.

Where are you with the public restroom / onlookers response… thing?

By | 2012-09-21T21:15:49+00:00 September 21st, 2012|Categories: Family, Parenting, Time Together|Tags: , |2 Comments

About the Author:

Gina St. Aubin

Gina St. Aubin is a former Victim’s Advocate who now advocates for those with intellectual and physical challenges. Her eldest son is diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder, Electrical Status Epilepticus during Sleep / Landau-Kleffner Syndrome (a rare epileptic disorder causing verbal aphasia) and Developmental Delays. In June, 2012, her son also underwent a successful hemispherectomy. Gina is the editor, author and owner of Special Happens, serves as a member of the Board of Directors for the SPD Foundation, and resides in Colorado where she is a mother of 3, wife, blogger, writer and special needs advocate.


  1. katrina January 11, 2013 at 12:54 am - Reply

    Seems to me like you are just a good Mom! My Dad took me into the guy’s room when I was a kid all the time, and my Mom took me and my brothers into the girl’s room all the time. Kids just don’t care about that stuff that much (until a parent disapproves). None of us kids had special needs, and we never got any weird looks – why should anyone judge you? Please, invite me on your next field trip, and I’ll happily look around for judgemental folks… I’m an ass-kickin’ kind of gal. Families gotta do what they gotta do 🙂

    • Editor January 16, 2013 at 5:38 pm - Reply

      I’ll certainly bring you with me! LOL

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