Commentary

How do the new bathroom laws affect kids with special needs?

I have tried to explain to women on numerous occasions that he is very intellectually impaired and that I must accompany him into the bathroom, because he cannot ever be left alone and that it is a safety issue. Some are understanding, but some double down and continue their judgement, loud castigation, and comments about how the presence of my son, at his age, in a ladies room is further proof of the total degradation of society.

It’s come to the point, that when he signs to me in the car that he has to go potty, if I am near a wooded area, which are all around us in Reston thankfully, I will opt to pull over to the side of the road and let him pee outdoors rather than risk the scorn of a stranger in a public restroom. The woods aren’t segregated, and usually free from judgement.

So, our pools, which requires every resident of our town who uses them to walk through a locker room, male or female, have become a problem for my son and me.

I tried, considering that women can be nude in a locker-room, to walk in before he’s going to come running through, to make sure nobody is naked. I even tell women who are standing in the bathroom that I am going to bring a young autistic boy through for a moment to the pool. Most are very understanding and accommodating, but often enough, some are not. One woman last summer said to me, “You will do no such thing!” I tried to explain to her why I needed to stay with him at all times, and she responded, “Well, that’s your problem, maybe you shouldn’t bring him to the pool then!”

In hindsight, I should have left that facility and gone to another one, but being the perpetual rebel that I am, I decided that this women was not going to push my family out of our regular pool. About two hours after we arrived, the dreaded moment came though, when he had to use the restroom, and I walked into the ladies room, made certain nobody was naked, and warned that he was coming in. He ran right into a stall and this woman actually followed me in. I thought she would yell at me, but she went marching directly to the life-guard’s desk and I could hear her very loudly complaining. Would she have preferred that he urinate in the pool, or just that I risked him running out the door on the other side onto a very busy intersection?

When we left the pool, the lifeguard said to me, “Ma’am, would it be possible for one of our male lifeguards to walk your son into the men’s room to get into the pool and use the restroom?”

At the moment, relieved that they seemed to be on my side and trying to help us, and these lifeguards know my family and clearly felt terrible, I agreed that going forward that’s what I’d be willing to do. Later in the evening though, the more I thought of it, I thought about how uniquely unqualified and untrained any of these lifeguards are in taking care of a child as severely impaired as my son and decided when I went back to that pool I would stand my ground gently but very firmly.

No, in fact, it was not okay to leave the care of my severely impaired son to someone who wasn’t qualified to care for him.

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