I Am This Mom


This image has been going around Facebook for a few weeks now with the following caption:

Disabled people in US: 19%
Transgender people in US: 0.03%

THIS is the bathroom issue I am more concerned about. Having a private place to change my beloved son with dignity, privacy, and cleanliness…not on a dirty bathroom floor with a large cot I have to carry everywhere with us. We consider ourselves “fortunate” when we can find large private family bathrooms like the one pictured…but most places are stalled restrooms where even the disability stalls don’t have enough room for all of my son’s equipment and me.

It keeps popping up in my news feed. At first I scrolled past it. And then I read it. And then I stared at the image for five minutes.  Then I got mad about it and every memory of changing Cooper in a public restroom came flooding back.  Then I shared it and waited for someone to challenge me or call me out on Facebook.

They didn’t.

I shared this picture because people don’t know that this stuff happens. I don’t talk about it. I don’t call up my mom or a friend and complain about changing Cooper on the bathroom floor of a Target.

Why you ask?

I guess I didn’t think there were any other options. I thought it was my ‘fault’ for bringing my special needs son out in public and risking that he would go to the bathroom. Or heaven forbid I would have to pee. Or his brother.

That’s the real tragedy if you ask me. We hide.

We are the parents that see things and do things that a lot of people don’t know about. We give enemas and change adult diapers and get kicked and hit in the face and we cry a lot. And we don’t usually talk about it.

We actually typically don’t leave the house.

Cooper has been in a public restroom three times since he was 2 years old. As a 2 year old he would run out of bathrooms while I was peeing. He would psychically twist out of his shirt if I wasn’t holding him on my lap. The final time he ran out into a waiting room while I was sitting on a toilet and I made eye contact with a man when he darted out the door. I said never again.

Note to stores: Put the locks higher up and have doors that go to the ground. Thanks.

Like I said in the last 3 years Cooper has been in a public restroom 3 times with me. Twice because Sawyer had to go. I actually pleaded with my then 2 year old to hold his pee so we didn’t have to bring Cooper in. So messed up.

The third was because Cooper pooped so terribly he had to be changed immediately. I laid him down on a sweatshirt on the ground of a grocery store. It was absolutely disgusting. You try telling a sensory seeking child they can’t touch the floor, lick the floor or put things in their mouth. It’s just not happening.

So this picture really jazzed me up.

First, let me say it’s not a competition of who has it harder. I know nothing of transgender and I won’t claim too. I also know nothing of having a handicapped child in a wheelchair. I can’t imagine and I send all of my hugs and strength to the parents and caregivers that work with physically handicapped kiddos. I am very blessed that Cooper is active and physical.

But in saying that, I do know what it’s like to have a 5 year old, almost 6 year old in a diaper. I know what it’s like to worry about changing him when we are out in public. And what no one tells you or talks about is that a five year old child has adult poop. It stinks and it’s extremely messy. It’s 30 wipes every time. It’s gagging and scrubbing your hands. It’s Cooper’s brother telling me that his brother stinks. It’s a child that refuses to be changed standing up. At least once a week I cry over Cooper’s pooping issues.

We parents need a private place to change our kids diapers with dignity, privacy, and cleanliness…not on a dirty bathroom floor. We need to drive awareness. We need to be able to leave our houses and go out into public. Like I said, this picture makes me so sad. We need to start talking about it.



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Kate Swenson

Kate Swenson lives in Minnesota with her husband Jamie, and four children, Cooper, Sawyer, Harbor and Wynnie. Kate launched Finding Cooper's Voice from her couch while her now 11-year-old son Cooper was being diagnosed with autism. Back then it was a place to write. Today it is a living, thriving community of people who want to not only advocate for autism, but also make the world a better place for individuals with disabilities and their families. Her first book, Forever Boy, will be released, April 5, 2022.

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  1. Violet on May 31, 2016 at 8:36 pm

    The bathroom issues for the disabled are completely ridiculous and always have been. I worked in a hospital as a nurse for 13 years, and the bathrooms were so insanely small on the wards we had patients and staff getting injured constantly. You can’t get one person in them let alone a nurse trying to help a sick or elderly person, along with IV poles and extra equipment. How is this possible even in HOSPITALS?

    As a pregnant woman I went into the BabiesRUs bathrooms and the stalls were so small I couldn’t turn around…I kid you not, I had to *back* my pregnant body into the stall to sit on the toilet.

    Now I’m a disabled woman…sometimes I can’t get my walker in even the handicapped stall if it’s designed so you have to make a sharp corner (forget a f’ing wheelchair).

    As for changing a disabled child/adult on the floor, I cannot even imagine the frustration, and I’m so sorry you (or anyone) has to deal with it.

    I also want trans people to feel safe and have dignity in the bathroom of their choice.

    The restroom situation….well, it’s always been a mess in the county if you’re anything other than healthy and cisgendered. 🙁

  2. NickyB. on May 31, 2016 at 9:35 pm

    Well Said!