Friday, January 29, 2010

The Homeschooling Bathroom Advantage

"Mommy, is Riley taking a long time in the bathroom part of her Asperger's?" -Seth 


In a recent post for The Homeschool Classroom, a blogger named Samantha discussed the pros and cons of homeschooling. It was a light piece in which her children mentioned being able to go to the bathroom, when they felt like it, as a big bonus. It was cute.

For us, it's more than cute. 

Riley can't go at school. She can't go in a stall, where other people are coming in and out. It isn't that she won't go. She can't. She is so busy covering her ears, worried about when the flush in the next toilet is going to happen. She is worried about how long it will take her to wipe. The cheap toilet paper breaks off every time you tug on a square, frustrating her to no end. She uses a lot and can never get enough of it. She freaks out about germs. Trying to hurry (being rushed is always a trigger)and dealing with it all, is too much.

If it is really bad, and she desperately has to go, she might decide to face her fears and try, but often when she gets in the stall she freezes. The pee won't come out.

I can't tell you how many times I have stood outside a locked stall, while she screams and cries. She is too big to want me in there with her. I try to talk her through it via the crack in the door. She won't unlock it. It's such a helpless feeling.  

So most of the time at school, she didn't bother to try. She'd go from 7:00AM until 3:30 without using the bathroom. 

If she had to poop? Forget it. She'd hold it and become more and more constipated, until we wound up with a situation so severe she often had to miss school because of it.

We made arrangements for her to use the private bathroom in the nurse's office if she needed it, but she got tired of the questions. Everyone thinking she was sick. Being different.

So while it was cute for the kids in the post mentioned above, to cite bathroom freedom as a bonus for homeschooling, for us it was a very real consideration when making our decision to keep Riley home.  

How can you focus if you have to go so bad you can't sit still? How can you learn?

"Yes, Seth."

The answer is yes.


Michelle O’Neil has contributed to A Cup of Comfort for Parents of Children with Autism, and Special Gifts: Women Writers on the Heartache, the Happiness and the Hope of Raising a Special Needs Child. She has written for Literary Mama, The Imperfect ParentAge of Autism, and Cool Cleveland. She has a seven year old son Seth, and a nine year old daughter Riley with Asperger’s. Michelle and her husband Todd began homeschooling Riley earlier this month.


  1. Oooh, we don't care for the loud flushers and automatic hand dryers either. We're with you.

  2. This made me cry! The agony that poor child must have been going through day after day after day! That's reason enough to home school, right there!

  3. since we've never been in school and since it's been about a billion years since i was in school, i found it completely shocking when i learned that kids in public school can't go to the bathroom whenever they want.
    for us that would be a nightmare. fluffy goes to the bathroom about 25 times an hour. seriously.
    so. our bathroom thing is very different than yours but i LOVE LOVE LOVE that riley has the space and privacy and freedom she needs in this very important area!

  4. My daughter has "bathroom issues" too. We're slowly working through them, but multiple stalls is definitely a challenge as are "loud pottys" and "automatics". In every new to her bathroom I have to go in first and assure her that it "has a handle". If she is especially anxious I help her disrobe while she covers her ears or I cover her ears so she can do her own self-care. Automatic flushers are a major problem. She would rather just wet her pants than use one. I visited our town's new library last night and learned to my chagrin that every toilet in the place is auto-flush - some new green building code. Wondering if I could contest it on an ADA basis...but for now I'm going to have to learn every trick out there for disabling auto-flushers...or carry a change of clothes every time. sigh