Friday, 20 November 2009

Love of routines and autism

I have noticed throughout my sons life, his love of routines. Autism and routines is usually the norm, some children have more than others. Routines for getting dressed, brushing teeth, waking up. The list CAN be endless and he will gain or drop routines with time. Some routines can be extremely time consuming especially at times when we need to rush - the morning before school for example - the wake up routine goes something like this.......I rouse him by gently shaking his shoulder (which often takes along time as he has terrible sleeping issues and is extremely tired in the mornings). I then have to get a warm flannel, which MUST have a nice smelling body wash on it, if it hasn't and smells of nothing, all hell breaks loose with tantrums, aggression and crying. I then have to gently wipe his face with it. I get a bouncy ball which has a picture of an eye on it and I have to speak to my son, through this ball (in a voice similar to Marge Simpson I must add!) and say 'good morning, it's time to wake up' etc. and sometimes he likes me to sing a song 'through it' as well. I then have to get his school clothes and after getting his P.J's off, I have to start dressing him whilst he is laying on his bed, saying 'right leg, left leg', whilst putting on his trousers socks  and the like. Even when in his uniform, my son (LL) often asks me 'where are we going?', and I have to say 'school'. So that is just a basic outline of his 'wake up' routine. Some mornings it runs smoothly, some others it does not. It can all depend on how tired and grouchy he is and if he has had a spate of bad nights. When he is grouchy, he seems more sensitive to his routine being 'perfect'. The thing is with autism and routines, well in my case anyway, I know it gives LL a sense of security I did completely stop all routines a couple of years ago as it got to the point where I was fed up with the routines, but it resulted in absolute pandemonium.His behaviour really suffered and he was extremely stressed so I started them all back up again. He will refuse to eat a meal if I cook it too soon after his return from school. He is not genned up on reading the time, but he seems to be able to judge the length of time he has been  back from school and if I cook him a meal, he will refuse and say 'it's too early,it's not dinner time, I haven't been back from school long'. So the meal just sits all alone waiting for the right time to be eaten. In the beginning, I wondered why he got so distressed, but over time, as a parent you get to know your child's wants and needs - the same as a parent of an NT child, and you adapt your life around their special needs - you have to. It is very hard and extremely tiring but the more hard work I have put in with my son, the more rewards I get so to speak. So say if I can't be bothered with the routines, I get the bad behaviour...but if I stick to the routines, my son is happy. And this is enough a reward in itself. I do not like the thought of my child feeling anxious. With his autism, he suffers extreme anxiety and is now seeing a psychologist to help with this. Even on journeys to school, curse me down if I take an alternate route son bombards me over and over with 'where are we going?' 'this isn't the right way' until we end up back on the same route. The thing is, if you look at it from an autistic view point, you can fully understand the anxiety of  this quick route detour; the child knows he is going to school, you have told the child he is going to school,the child knows the route to school. If that route is broken, then the thought of school is broken too. This is where the anxiety kicks in as the child now thinks he is going somewhere other than where he was told. They feel anxious as autistic children need to know exactly what is happening. And another thing I have found is that if something crops up and a routine has to be altered, even if the child does not show the anxiety at that moment in time, it can be a backlash at a later point in time. My son is typical of this; he can hold onto things that have stressed him  and 3 weeks later, he will have a complete meltdown over it. So I tend to try and be as regular and as stable for my son as much as I possibly can.

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