Imagine having something set in stone in your life, something you’ve done since you were a child… no matter what happened, you never missed it, or if you did, you were thrown off for the whole day. Now imagine someone asked you to stop, or change it…. right now!
I think that would be a pretty overwhelming task for even the strongest willed of us, humans are pretty good at being able to adapt but I think it’s safe to say that we’re really routine based creatures. We all go to school, we all work, we all live in this wacky social society system we’ve built up around ourselves.
Now imagine that your brain is wired differently where any slight deviation from your regular routine sends you into a turmoil of raw emotion that you can’t understand, much less control.
I can’t even pretend to know what that is like even though I witness it first hand from time to time.
You see, my son is about to turn 5 and he is Autistic. You have to understand that to a 5 year old, a routine that’s lasted 2 or 3 years is pretty much the majority of his life, certainly the portion of his life that he can remember clearly.
The reason I bring all this up is that many people forget what it is they’re doing when they ask a child to stay up later, walk a different route, take a different bus… even to have something else for breakfast because you’re out of their favourite cereal!
Routines take time to change or break, for everyone. But for an Autistc person, it may not be possible at all, but if it is, it will take even longer. Routine is the foundation to a clear mind, feeling safe and feeling in control.
The trick in all of this is to make others understand, to have others realize the difficulty involved. Even the ‘experts’ that recognize this, sometimes simply forget, or don’t realize the impact of their actions. One big area this affects many children is at school as it can be quite the dynamic setting.
Cameron’s teacher and helpers are really great and they write into a daily journal to let us know everything that happens, but one time, they let something slip through the cracks… we noticed a behavioural difference in Cameron but didn’t know the cause. It wasn’t until a while later that we were told that the Autistic children were moved from a private small area to play outside to the common large public area to play for their recess.
They thought they had told us but it never made it into our book… and so some time later, we finally realized why it was that Cameron was behaving slightly different lately. Once realized, we could address it and help him to understand and feel comfortable with it.
As with anything involving an Autistic child, don’t take anything for granted. The smallest detail to you and I can be very important to them.
If a routine must be changed, be prepared to have a lot of patience. Be prepared to be very understanding. Be prepared to weather a storm. Because you’re asking a lot from them, more than you may realize. The sooner you respect that, the better it will go.