While social media has done a great job of bringing special needs issues to the forefront of national discussions around raising families, some problems don’t get discussed enough.
One mom on Facebook recently rocked the internet when she wrote in frank terms about how caring for her tween special needs child presents a unique set of problems that needs immediate attention; access to inclusive family bathrooms.
“This is my 10 year old special needs daughter in the back of my vehicle getting a diaper change during our outing at the Trampoline Park,” Lauren Broussard wrote on Facebook.
“This is the part of ‘adult’ special needs parenting that isn’t talked about.
This is the part that I can’t seem to figure out how we as a country & community have not yet managed to have all inclusive restrooms in EVERY public place.”
The image shows Broussard’s tween child lying on her back in the trunk of the family car.
She is a special needs child who is not potty trained, and according to Broussard’s post, she likely won’t be trained until she’s in her 30s.
That presents a particularly sensitive problem for the Broussard family.
If public bathrooms are unsafe or inadequately designed for special needs, then diaper changes must happen in the car, where this young, developing girl will not have the decency of privacy.
“My daughter is developing. She is a young lady. She has breast buds and pubic hair. (TMI) I get it but it’s a fact!
It’s real! It’s our life!
It’s one thing to take your baby or toddler out to the car and have to strip them and change them, but a 10 year old developing young lady?”
She writes in her post that the public bathroom is simply not an option.
Not only is her daughter far too big for a baby changing table, but the floor is a disgusting place to lay a person down to change them. Furthermore, it’s simply not possible to change her daughter standing up either.
“Why have we not considered this in every single public place yet? THIS. THIS IS WHAT ISNT TALKED ABOUT ENOUGH! THIS is Special Needs parenting. THIS is not fair to our kids and adults,” Broussard asks.
“This needs to change! I know I am not alone in this and it makes me so so sad for our Special Needs Community.”
Her post has been shared 3.3K times and created a compassionate and honest dialog in the comments section from other special needs parents.
Facebook user Jami Stevens pointed out how rare it is to find bathrooms that can accommodate special needs and that they seem to not exist at all for men’s bathrooms.
“I think it should be required to have a specific bathroom for this exact reason. I’ve seen 2 bathrooms in public places that have the stalls you go in and one is noticeably bigger and have a larger changing table. But, those two were the only places ever seen that accommodate for that. Same with mens restrooms not having this,” Stevens wrote.
Facebook user, Courtney Burnett pointed readers to a great resource that is actively trying to address public bathroom needs.
The hashtag #dignifiedchanges on Facebook takes users to a string of insightful. educational, and activist posts that are trying to make public restrooms more inclusive.
Some users offered hope by way of very cool, savvy technical advances happening in the world.
Nine Gib wrote, “In Denmark this prefab special needs toilet is being tested out. You access it with an app that requires pre approval from a special needs organisation.”
But perhaps the most heartwarming aspect of this viral Facebook post was the sheer number of sympathetic and compassionate responses.
Many of these responses reveal not only is the Broussard not alone in their struggle to find decent bathrooms but there are many other families trying to bring attention to the same thing.
Talk about finding your village and being heard!
But of course, you still get your trollish commenters who feel the need to be that voice of apathy and rudeness.
One Facebook user wrote, “With special circumstances comes special struggles. To expect society to adapt to every single struggle out there is beyond ridiculous. I’m sorry you have unique struggles in your life. We all have struggles in our life. We just don’t all vent them to Facebook and expect the world to change for us.”
It would be worth noting to Mr. Leggett that there are more special needs families in the US than his rose-colored, able-bodied glasses apparently allow him to see.
There are 11.2 million children in the US with special needs.
You might say that in a country with 332 million people running around, that 11.2 million is rather tiny, but that relatively small number translates to one in five families with a special needs child.
Suddenly, it doesn’t seem so small.
Furthermore, inclusive bathrooms would solve a lot of problems for families with children without special needs as well.
Many of us also need bathroom access that is inclusive; including in the men’s room where dads lack privacy and adequate space to change their children as well.
May we one day have a society where there is enough compassion and empathy that no family has to struggle over something as basic as finding a restroom that can provide a safe, private space to take care of basic human needs.