Distress in Response to Change

Related to narrow, repetitive interests – people with autism often prefer a routine. Blastland gives the example of his son who would just as soon eat the same food every meal every day of his life.

Joe prefers pasta. More precisely, he prefers Sainsbury’s spinach and ricotta tortellini. In fact, he’s altogether rather particular about it: no other brand, no other variety, no sauce, no accompaniment and in an ideal world, no other food. I’ve woken at six in the morning to feel its slithery plastic packaging pressed to my nose. He’d live on it, if allowed (pg. 26).

Joe, like many children with autism –aches for familiarity. Endless repetition is a hallmark of his everyday life: the same songs, same games, same food, same routines.

Julia YellingThis is actually very logical. If it is difficult for you to communicate with other people, if it is difficult for you to understand the world around you, why things happen, why people do what they do, then having the same experience every day makes life a whole lot easier.

Some of those happy-warm-fuzzy websites you will see on Autism kind of gloss over the temper tantrums – melt downs, whatever you want to call them. One trigger for these is often a change in routine.

Kamran Nazeer, an adult with Autism, tells about tearing wallpaper off the wall as a child because, while painting the living room, his father had moved his toy cars “which had been lined up in exactly the order that I wanted.”

Recognize this about the child. She is not being a spoiled brat. She is autistic and change in routine is very distressing.

One family describes preparing for a trip to the dentist by driving by the dentist’s office several times, taking pictures of the dentist, his office and his staff to show their daughter, taking her on one visit just to sit in the chair, for a second visit to practice the steps in having dental work done without actually doing it.

Although you may not find as cooperative and helpful a dentist as this one, in general this step-by-step process is recommended for any change for children with Autism. Work up to it gradually. Do not spring things on them.

In The OAISIS Guide to Asperger’s, the authors note that people with Asperger’s have difficulty with change. Moving from one classroom to another, a substitute teacher,any change in schedule, routine or environment can be very upsetting. This is not limited to Asperger’s. Children with Autism also crave sameness, as we have discussed above.