Having a child with sensory issues and autism is not something I anticipated when becoming a mother, but it’s become my normal.
I have been hyperaware of restrooms for almost five years. The noises of flushing toilets and hand dryers, especially, are too much for my son to handle. They scare him, overwhelm him, can be physically painful for his ears, and he has had intense anxiety over them since he was a baby.
I frequently hold it if we are out so I won’t need to bring him inside of a public restroom. Potty training was extra-stressful as we had to assure and reassure him that he would be alright if someone turned on a hand dryer while he was going.
Today, I walked to August’s elementary school, holding his hand and guiding him through a tour of the different areas in this place he will be spending the bulk of his waking hours. We go back tomorrow and Friday so I can make sure he knows where things are, what adults will be near him if he needs help, and how he is expected to behave.
We passed by the boys’ restroom after we explored the cafeteria, and I asked August if he wanted to flush the toilet to check out the noise level and try washing his hands on his own.
After washing his hands, he pulled down a paper towel to dry himself off. Then he stared for a moment at the dryer. I told him he could try it if he wanted to — my attempt at encouraging him to try new things with no doubt in my mind that he was going nowhere near that contraption.
He placed his hand underneath and I braced myself for the meltdown, shocked that he had done anything and waiting for the fallout.
There was none.
He liked the blue light that glowed on his skin. He giggled at the way the force of the air moved the flesh on his palms.
I started crying, staring at my son feeling fine and even laughing at something that has been a source of fear and anxiety for him for almost his entire life. It’s a stupid hand dryer, but this moment meant the world to me.
Seeing him adapting to the world around him and trying new things are small victories, but this journey makes them feel like Olympic-sized wins.
My son used a hand dryer today. It was one of the proudest moments of my life.