Our Autism Story – Day 17 – “Doing the Same Thing, the Same Way, ALWAYS!”
Setting and sticking to routines and schedules is important for all children. We can all get a little cranky if eating and sleep schedules are changed. Brahm is like most children where changes in his routines and schedules can be met with conflict. Brahm has obsessive tendencies, which started before he was one year old, that further exacerbate these challenges.
Sometimes, Brahm’s routines can be advantageous. For example, with the help ABA and routine charts, Brahm is now good in the morning at taking his medicine, going to the bathroom, getting dressed, and eating breakfast (all four with our help of course). Not too long ago, getting him to do those things voluntarily in the morning was an exhausting, long process, including meltdowns and aggression.
However, Brahm has some routines that are challenging. Some examples are:
If we let Brahm have certain foods a couple days in a row, Brahm becomes fixated on those foods and it is a struggle to get him to eat different foods. It is a bad morning in our house if we run out of Brahm’s favorite cereal! Also, Brahm ‘needs’ to have French fries if we eat at restaurant, and he needs to eat all of them before eating anything else. It can be a very unpleasant dinning experience if he doesn’t get his fries!
We let Brahm have ice cream at Culver’s once, and now he expects to get ice cream every time we get food from Culvers, or an aggressive meltdown will ensue. (We don’t always let him have ice cream!)
Brahm has to take certain stuffed animals to bed with him. If one of his favorite stuffed animals is missing, we have to tear apart the house to find it, or Brahm will not go to sleep. For bedtime, he also has to have his favorite music at the moment on (normally his favorite song on repeat for the entire night), nightlights on, and water bottle on his nightstand. If any of these things are not there or in the right spot, he will destroy his entire room and refuse to sleep.
Clothing and changing seasons can be a challenge. With the warmer weather, we are eventually going to have to change over to shorts and short-sleeve shirts and that will cause a major issue for Brahm. The same thing happens in the Fall, when we go back to colder weather clothes.
Brahm has to have his stuffed cat Simba with him. This includes in the bathroom, at the dinner table, and out in public. If Simba is lost, there is no way we are leaving the house until we find her (yes, Simba is a “she”).
“Obsessions, routines and rituals might help children with autism cope with their surroundings and reduce their stress and anxiety by allowing them to control their environment and knowing what’s going to happen next.” However, it does make getting out of the house on time, or doing anything in a timely matter, challenging!
P.S. – We may not last too long at family functions and public events because of the combination of changes in Brahm’s routines and sensory issues. If we need to leave early, it is generally out of necessity for our family’s sanity!