Breaking a routine

Posted on: March 4, 2012

The past couple of days have been really tough. Our internet connection has been going on & off ‘area trouble’ apparently, and so A hasn’t had Mario to watch.

So why don’t I just give him something else to do?

Wish I could! Mario is the only interest A has, before he had this interest, I was (not literally) ripping my hair out at the end of each day, I was exhausted – having to occupy a child who had no interest. He would climb the walls if he could.

These past couple of days have been a reminder of that time. Even the slightest change in routine – like watching Mario can have an adverse effect on A. Its the change from predictability to the not knowing. Doing the same things in the same way is safe for A – He’s almost in control of what’s happening he knows what’s coming next – you take that away from him and he totally changes.

We try and keep things the same everyday, maintaining structure and predictability to A’s day, but sometimes whether planned or unplanned routine must be broken & this can lead to so many problems & confusion.

A hasn’t been his normal self – he’s been more aggressive, unsettled, upset & very un-cooperative.

He can be the same at nursery, even a change in what’s displayed on the wall or a piece of furniture being moved can cause him to be disruptive or upset.

Transition is also a major part of a routine being disrupted. Moving from one activity to the next especially without warning can cause a meltdown as that’s his only way of communicating that something is wrong. Moving from nursery to school or primary to secondary are also very distressing times.

Routines serve a great purpose for those with ASD, helping to manage anxieties.

But routines can also have a profound affect on the lives of people with Autism, there families and carers. It prevents us from being able to be spontaneous or go wherever we want. If I want to do something different with A I must plan it for at least a day before, or wait 4 him to be in a good mood. The surprise is to much for him to process, and he doesn’t understand why things are changing.
Many times we’ve taken A out and had to come back home – his safe place.

Daily visual timetables can help and I’ve been producing some symbols to make some of these – to provide variety and more flexibility to our day & showing A that this is what is going to happen but at the same time still providing a sense of predictability.

We have the same routine almost everyday apart from when he goes to nursery.

He has his highchair in the same place every meal time – he watches mario on the laptop in the same place – he drinks out of the same cups – he eats off the same plates – his food must look the same or he won’t eat it. He has the same bed time routine every night – and the list goes on.

I wanted to highlight this as its something that does affect a lot of ASD children and its important for others to understand these sorts of things and become more aware of our daily struggles as parents/carers.

Comments welcome – as always.

L x


5 Responses to "Breaking a routine"

We brought M a portable DVD player it helps when were out and about and when the Internet plays up also.

I really sympathise with you. It must be very difficult to not be able to just go out.

Thank you for this – I am in the process of getting my 3 year old diagnosed with mild autism. It is the strict routines that he HAS to follow that gave me my suspiscions in the first place. This article has made me realise I am not alone in not feeling able to just go out when I want. It can feel very isolating at times

Routines were difficult when Tristyn started school cause everything was new. A new routine to learn an school had no interest in asd needs. They rotated “tables”. A dif activity for 15 min at each table. That was rough but he made it through an I think he learned to develope skills on how to transition.

Very good description of routines and ASD. Little bit is also a big Mario fan. If she could pick how she spends all of her spare time it would be only the Wii, DS, iPad, or computer. We recently put a trampoline outside and she rarely goes on her own. If sister invites her she will usually go out. We use to be able to predict exactly what would cause meltdowns. This year, even the school says it is very unpredictable. We are thinking of a visual, set schedule at home to add more structure and hopefully help her feel more secure. In regards to the games and computer, many times she wants someone to “watch” her play so that even that is not a solitary activity. It is something that many people don’t understand. Even some family members have said things like, “She needs to learn to accept the word NO at some point” and, ” A good spanking would take care of THAT”. It’s very hard to explain this aspect of ASD to someone. Thank you for sharing your story and helping to educate others on the issue.

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