Autism and Families
Routine Routine Routine

How do Autism and Families live in the same house without going down the rabbit hole? Routine is the key. This is a lesson we learned early on and has been a life saver to this day.

I was an only child until I was 8, then my parents decided they had so much love to give, they wanted to be foster parents. After working with juvenile delinquent boys for years my parents moved to medically fragile babies. Long story short they adopted 4 babies who shared the same birth mom. All of them were born with drugs and alcohol in their systems and had various physical and mental disabilities due to the exposure. The diagnosis that stopped us all in our tracks was autism. When my brother was diagnosed we had no idea what this meant. I thought he would become a world class poker player like Dustin Hoffman in “Rain Man”. He didn’t, sometimes he was able to count to 10.

The first thing we learned was the power of a routine. While being foster parents for troubled teens my family had developed a rhythm and routine to keep the boys out of trouble, but we sometimes broke that rhythm and would go out for midnight ice cream or suddenly grab our skates and go ice skating. With an autistic child, you can NOT break the routine. This will lead to temper tantrums, regression in behavior (stop talking, drooling, screaming, hitting… use your imagination). You get up at the same time each morning, you do everything in the same order and often have the same discussion at the same time (for my brother it is waking up asking what is for dinner, and then asking it again 10-15 times). If the phone rings or you run out of that specific type of cereal, the whole day is gone for that child. 

I have always been a creature of habit, but this on a whole new level. Routine brings stability and comfort. Change is uncertain and scary. Just think OCD and multiple it by a factor of 10, then you get an idea of what it is like to be autistic.

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