Autism Acceptance Month – Day #16: The Bathroom

NOTE: As part of this subsection for Autism Acceptance Month, we are exploring topics of independence. As such I feel it is necessary to discuss needs of the restroom and other related material. As such the content may be disturbing to some, however I do feel it is a very necessary element that needs brought to the spotlight. Reader Aware!

In Autism Acceptance Month we mostly talk about topics and milestones that are bright and sunny. However, I unknowing came across a story on PBS Newshour that highlighted an individual with autism. We do know that Autism is prevalent in males, in fact this year 1 in 59 males are on the spectrum. When Newshour was highlighting this individual a toileting issue that not only happened in my childhood, but I did some research and found it, along with other issues to be prevelant in males across the spectrum Included below is the video of that report, if you do wish to watch it.

Anyway, the story, in part, highlights an individual on the spectrum while although verbal, is limited in functionality. His sister, who is slightly older than her is interviewed and is asked what she feels is a challenge as he is aged out of public school. She states her biggest worry is that when he uses a public restroom, specifically a urinal that he lowers his pants to his ankles. She worries if another male would happen to be in the restroom of how this would be perceived. The director of the school he was attending rebuttled in the next clip of that there is and should be more training in this topic.

As it relates to me I at one time in my younger years had phobia of using the restroom, oftentimes having to be escorted by a male when needing the use of one. I garnered the knowledge to use a urinal by myself at a field trip in second grade,  where I pulled my pants to the ground, as I was quickly told by a peer this was not the proper norm when using a urinal. I was mimicked for some years by my peers, and it was even brought up in various banter in Senior High. Nonetheless, I got over it and I know it isnt the proper thing to do. In fact, the same peers that have mimicked me are now friends with me online and I don’t hold that grudge against them not one bit.

I have seen instances of individuals, although less functioning than myself, performing this behavior, This is a proper example of why we need male role models in a positive and ethical nature to guide individuals that are unaware of public practices, such as using a urinal so we do not have any incidents as this family member fears. I personally feel that there is no attraction for skilled and talented persons, let alone those of the male gender to work directly with those on the spectrum. There are some treasured professionals, however they are few and far between and they are needed intensely. Some hinderance is the hiring and training process, although the computer has made this easier to some degree. Nonetheless the sticking point with skill and tenure of individuals is that of compensation and rate of pay. This has to be enhanced in some aspect of there is to be a continuum of services for any given individual, as individuals on the spectrum are honed in their routine and constant need for consistency.

In the same token , there was an instance brought to light in the local media of a local adult training facility where a sexual assault occurred. Here are some combined snippets of that article. It is provided in snippet form as to protect the privacy of the entities involved, although it is public knowledge.

The alleged victim, according to the complaint, lives in a community home, suffers from several disorders, and is non-verbal. The suit stated he could be easily victimized because he considers everyone a friend, and stated he cannot recognize potentially dangerous situations. Attorneys for his parents wrote that the man must have individual supervision at all times.

The suit claimed on that May 7, the man was told to use a restroom by another client who was trying to kiss the man’s cheek while no employee was present.

The two were in the restroom for about 20 minutes, unsupervised, when the alleged victim was sexually assaulted by the other client, the suit claimed. The suit stated that the man screamed, but no

 

A short time later, an employee went into the restroom and brought both of them out, according to the filing.

According to the complaint, the alleged victim appeared shaken.

 

The complaint also alleged that an employee contacted the man’s community home to report that he bit his own finger, causing a self-inflicted injury.

However, when an employee at the man’s community home arrived for the man, the employee observed multiple injuries that could not have been self-inflicted. That employee believed officials were misleading about how the man sustained his injuries, the suit contended.

Employees at the community home also examined the man and photographed his injuries, noting he had lacerations and bruising to his ear, a hand print to his back and bite marks and bruising on his head, legs and chest.

 

The man was transported to the hospital and examined in the emergency department where it was revealed that the man was bleeding from a bite to his genitals, according to the suit. Hospital personnel contacted state police, who are currently investigating the incident.

The complaint states that the day program failed to supervise the man, failed to promptly report and provide care to him and failed to notify the authorities.

While I am going to leave my opinion to the court of legal judgement. I am going to say this, individuals, whether on the spectrum or not have to right to like who or whatever they want, its called equality, and whether or not we want to face it is an ever evident issue no matter whether it is the autism, mental heath, substance use or intellectual disabled community.

What the issue lies in individuals that want any kind of activity, it must be made in terms that the individuals understand that consent must be acquired before pursuing such activity. And while in this specific incident,  there would have been no way to garner consent, nor was this the place for such activity. We must come to reality that individuals with disabilities have thoughts, feeling and views that are not of the traditional mom and pop values as the world did grow up. We must be forerunners in ALL needs of the disabled community as a whole, including individuals on the spectrum.

Likewse ASERT, the commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s leading Autism Gateway has begun a campaign this year entitled Be Safe: Ask, Listen, Respect. This campaign promotes the idea of body autonomy for individuals with disabilities. Many individuals with disabilities require support with intimate areas of their daily life, requiring physical support from family members, caregivers and support staff. An important prevention strategy is teaching individuals that their body is their own, and they have a say in what happens to their bodies. Therefore, ASERT has created a pledge for family members, caregivers, support staff and other professionals to take in order to promote a safe and positive environment for all individuals.  We will shine a light on this in tomorrows post