So everyone likes routine, whether they realize it or not, but most people can be reasonably flexible. For example, if someone enjoys having toast on Sunday mornings and they realize that they are out of bread they can probably substitute for a bagel or bowl of cereal.
Most people probably also have a basic routine for getting ready in the morning. But brushing your teeth and combining your hair probably isn’t a comfort thing. It’s also probably not a reminder to yourself that you are in control of these parts of your life, or it might be and that’s ok.
But those are real reasons mr. L has rigid routines. It’s comforting, it’s a reminder that he has control over parts of his life. Most people just have routines out of habit of doing them everyday and to help them not forget like, “Keys, wallet, cellphone” or their habits formed by accident.
By now you’ve probably gathered that routines can be very important to people on the spectrum. It helps provide understanding of expectations, it promises predictability, and less chance of misunderstanding communication.
If a routine or expectation gets messed up or can’t be followed, things can get really stressful, confusing, or overwhelming. Not being able to follow a routine can be emotionally and physically exhausting. Something as simple as needing a green cup at breakfast but discovering its in the dishwasher being cleaned or needing to walk through a specific door at the library but it’s broken and can’t be used.
So scheduled patterns and routines can be nice, calming and simplifying. But what about when they aren’t?
Mr. L gets stuck in these cycles where the routine needs to be a fight. Literally to feel safe, he needs to follow his routine of objecting to something before he can do it. Sometimes the need to refuse becomes so strong that the compulsive need to say no will keep him from doing something he usually loves to do. Complicated right?
Recently mr. L has got himself into a routine of needing to go to school, ABA therapy, then home. At first it was simply feeling tired from a long work day, then it became a routine, and now if I offer to take him out for ice cream he stresses out and refuses.
The kid likes ice cream, he usually enjoys going out to restaurants with his family, but he has got himself into a rut. Mr. L goes through these cycles where he will feel the need to say no before switching activities. It can start from refusing to do something he hates, and then melt over to things he actually loves to do but he gets stuck in his need to be rigid.
My husband and I have picked up on this current cycle and to combat it have decided to buckle down and be mean parents for mr. L’s own good 😉 A few days ago we made him go to an indoor water park he usually loves. He kicked, screamed and cried until his foot touched the water, and then he remembered he liked swimming and had a good time. Next we are making him go to Frozen 2 because he loved the first one, and if he fights us terribly, I’m probably going to make him go to a toy store.
The plan is to get him used to doing other strongly preferred activities outside of school, ABA, and home. As he gets used to going out again, I’ll start changing up the activities to more basic errands like the grocery store and library- less preferred activities… I know, we’re so mean 😜
Mr. L is just getting bigger and stronger and one day I won’t be able to make him do anything by myself if he really refuses. So today when he is still a kid, and I am still taller (for a year or two) I’m teaching him to do non-preferred things that being part of living needs to get done. Like grocery shopping, washing dishes, going to the library and putting on deodorant 😁
Wish us luck with our next family outing ⭐️ And don’t forget to follow, like, and share with others who may relate 💙