We all have some routines right? I think we all work well with them. When you wake up in the morning, do you hit snooze or get right up? After you manage to actually get out bed, do you make the bed? Take a shower? Eat breakfast? Do you always do them in the same order? We love routines! (I know I do) Let’s say this morning, you wake up and step out of the bed and step into something wet and now you have to figure out why the floor is wet. Ugh! Something like this definitely throws a wrench in your day, but most of us are able to push through and figure out the next step. We clean up the mess and move on. That is not always the case with kids that have autism.
Marissa loves to have toast for breakfast. She loves it with a variety of things on it, but mostly peanut butter or butter. Tim or I will usually prepare her breakfast for her and bring it to her. Time to eat! Before Marissa can start eating, she needs to measure the toast. This takes a good couple minutes. Once she has found the biggest one, she can start eating. After breakfast, it is time to get dressed. She has to put her leg in her pants, right leg first. Socks, right foot first. Everything, right side first. She is very particular.
What happens when a wrench is thrown in her plan? Well, for Marissa, we don’t always know how she is going to respond. Just this morning, I realized that we didn’t have the bread she likes for her toast. It was grocery day and I was getting more, but we didn’t have it for this morning. I was dreading my telling her. Sometimes her whole day could be “off” because we didn’t have the right bread! Fortunately, this morning she was able to get past it and find something else that would work for breakfast. It is such a small thing, but has big impacts on a child with autism.
Early on, as we started behavioral therapy, we were taught that we need to stretch her sometimes. Before we started going to therapy, we would do all we can to do things the same, predictable way so that we didn’t have to worry about how she would respond. But, we learned that she can’t have it the same way, everyday the rest of her life, because that isn’t real life! Sometimes we run out of her favorite foods and I don’t make emergency trips to the store at midnight to get it (although I am tempted sometimes)… stretch. Sometimes we need to wash her favorite pajamas and they aren’t ready the same day for her to wear them again… s t r e t c h. Sometimes our plans get canceled and we can’t do the thing she was really looking forward to… big s t r e t c h. Those times that we stretch her are tough at first, but eventually she realizes it is ok and she can get through it. And it also makes it easier the next time she is stretched.
I think we could all use some stretching sometime. Is it fun? Nope, not always, but do we grow? YES!