Using Public Restrooms With Your Child With Autism

You have a teenager with autism.  That’s enough of a task right there.  There are so many obstacles to navigate that are invariably harder simply because your child is taller than you.  People see an adult when they look at them.   Public bathrooms can be treacherous while not being the safest place for a person with autism.  What is a parent to do when out in public  and your teenager of the opposite sex needs to use the restroom?

 You will have to eventually use a public restroom with your child with autism. What happens when it's your child of the opposite sex? Several options are available to you!


I posed this question on my Facebook page and in the group , Special Needs Homeschooling recently.  I know what works with Logan.  We’ve worked on it for years to get to a point where we could navigate this area successfully.I wanted to see what other parents were doing with their kids especially if they are non verbal.  With the recent  surge of laws similar to the one in North Carolina about needing to use the bathroom of your gender of your birth, a solid plan will need to be in place for any public outing.  The ingenuity of autism parents never ceases to amaze me. It is my hope that these answers help you as you navigate your own autismland.


Navigating Public Restrooms With Your Child With Autism


When my 13 year old son and I are out together without dad or brothers and he needs the bathroom, I open the men’s room door and loudly as ask, “Hello, is anyone in here? Female coming in.” If no one answers, I look quickly to see if anyone else is in there. If no, then I send him in by himself and stand outside the door waiting. If someone approaches, I say, I am waiting for my son with autism to come out. If you’re going in, I’m going in first to get him. They are usually very nice and either wait or let me go in and rush my son out.


I hover by the restroom door, and crack it open at times to yell at him to hurry up, he loves bathroom fixtures (sinks and toilet brand names) and would be in there longer if I didn’t get on him. Anyone in there obviously knows he’s not alone, and mommy is not afraid to walk into a men’s restroom. This gives my son independence and pride.


If Chris is with me, he takes  15 year old Tim to the men’s room. If I’m alone I look for a family rest room which usually is not available, then I just take him into the ladies’ room with me and no one has ever said anything to me about it. Lord help them if they do! haha! Tim cannot be sent into a restroom alone. He would eat T.P., paper towels and possibly even trash out of the trash can – so that is NOT an option.


I have two boys(13 and 11) and I have them going to the men’s room together while I wait outside and make them talk ( they are loud)….I do this for safety reason when we are in public and w/out my husband….but before I did this they would go w/me into the woman’s room again due to safety reasons….if someone did not like it or said something I said my job as a mom was to keep my children safe and sorry if they did not agree, but I was doing my job!


I usually use the family restroom and send in him and our middle son, who’s neuro-typical. If that’s not an option and its a busy place, he still goes with me and I simply remind him the men’s room is for adult men, which he’s not. Lastly, if the men’s room has an automatic door switch, I will stand outside, hit the door switch, which keeps the door open without me looking like a creeper, and call out to him while he’s in there, and threaten to come in if he doesn’t answer. I figure the thought of a woman, standing right at the door and threatening to come in if there’s no answer, is probably enough of a deterrent to anyone hanging out there to do harm.
My son has HFA but he’s capable of going into the men’s by himself. He’s almost 10. I have been known to do silly things like yell through the door when he takes too long. LOL

I have to wait outside the door to catch him when he comes out. Sometimes he forgets steps of what to do in there and ends up taking a LONG time. A few times he’s tried to strike up conversations with men at the urinal. There were a few years when we couldn’t be out in public long because sending him to the restroom was always disastrous in one way or another. We kept working on those skills at home and discussing the dos and don’ts when out in public and slowly, very slowly, it sank in. Sorta kinda. He still wanders when he walks out, forgets to wash hands, and I need to discuss with him tonight why he’s started throwing TP behind the toilet bowl instead of in the toilet.


I think I was taking my son in with me until he was close to 12. I do not remember anyone saying a thing. Maybe a couple odd looks but who cares. It’s been years working on this but we have taught him that the bathroom is NOT somewhere to chat with strangers


I just head right in with my son in tow. He’s usually clapping or giggling along the way. I’ve never had anyone give me a strange look. He’s almost 17 but very short for his age. I guess he looks the part so I’ve been spared the uncomfortable situation of explaining my actions.


I hang slightly back from the restroom and then yell at him to hurry up. If I get weird looks I don’t go into his whole medical background I just do a roll-eye w/ out loud exasperation of “ADHD” comment. Most people get the ADHD thing, if you say ASD they don’t quite understand the same way… There have been a few occasions where I let him go in without lurking, like if I can see him from where I’m sitting in a restaurant or something. My son usually will just wash his hands and “play” in the water.


My son isn’t a teen yet but he’s independent in the washroom. Usually we try to use the family or special needs restrooms but if there isn’t one I make him stand by the door while I run in and check. If there’s no one in there I bring him in with me and either make him use the stall right beside me or (if he doesn’t have to go but I do) I make him stand right outside my stall facing the door or the wall in case anyone walks in. If he needs to go and I don’t I sometimes let him use the men’s room alone but first I always ask a staff member if there’s only one exit and how big the room is. If it’s one of those 10+toilet restrooms, he’s not going in alone even if there is only one entrance/exit.
I have three boys and a toddler girl. When my boys were younger, I would open men’s washrooms and check first of any were in there, then let my older boys in.


I ask the manager of the establishment to clear the men’s room so my son can go.  After he walks in , I stand at the door and ask anyone who comes up to wait just a minute until he comes out. Most are willing to wait.  If not then I step in with them to keep an eye on my son.  They usually wait. 


 Tell me what do you with your child when they need to use the bathroom in public?  What is your plan in case your state passes a similar law?