Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Autism and Routine

One of the things that gave us a hint that something was going on with our children was how they reacted when I would pick up the mail. Where we were living at the time, mail was not delivered to the door but rather to a community mailbox. Most of the time I would take a certain route to pick up the mail, but sometimes I would change it up. When I would do this, our children (who were very young at the time), would start screaming. It was the strangest thing. At least we thought so, until we learned more about autism.

Our daughter is particularly stuck on routine. At one point, she had a meltdown while they were having a little musical concert at her group home. They later figured out why. The singer usually used a capo on his guitar for one particular song but this time did not. That was enough to set Abby off.

Even now, Abby is stuck on routine. It is normally me that drives Logan and Abby back to their group home after their visit. Sometimes Amanda likes to come. That is too much for Abby. She adores her mother but her routine is that only Dad drives them home. She can't handle any of the other kids in the car either.

Now this does not mean that routine is either good or bad. People with autism can get stuck on routine and sometimes a break in routine, as hard as that may be, is needed. However, a certain amount of routine is comforting for people with autism in a world where everything seems confusing. Sometimes minor changes in routine can be used to help the person learn.

What churches need to know is that routine is a major part of having autism. It is not something that should be tampered with lightly if you are trying to create an autism-friendly environment. No major changes should be made without consulting with the family. It may also be appropriate to ask the family if some recent changes have been made based on the behaviour you are seeing. We often knew when the group home had made some changes based on what we saw in Logan and Abby.

Understanding routines is an important part of being autism aware.

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