Everyone has the potential to slip into their routine, so soundly, that it takes some kind of jarring event to snap out of it. Going to the same restaurant every day for years, driving the same way to work, eating the exact brand of cereal, forever – sometimes you just got to change things up.
When you have a child on the Autism Spectrum, routine is your very best friend. Making charts, calendaring, and keeping the same routine is a must do. Planning an event? Break out the picture exchange cards, introduce the concept early, practice and finally, if all the planets line up, execute the “new” routine.
Going to the Dentist? Autism parents plan ahead, organize a few visits before hours, introduce the staff, point out the equipment, explain the process and repeat as often as necessary until everyone is on board for the final execution (appointment).
For all the years my son has been going to school, he has had door to door transportation on the special education bus. When we first relinquished control of his transport, it was admission to a new era. Our son was now at the age and ability that he could carry his own home key, let himself in after school, call me directly to let me know he was safe and stay alone for the few minutes it took his brother to arrive home too.
The first few weeks were critical to success, his and ours. We tried not to be “hovercraft” parents, and our son was doing a great job getting himself inside (using a key!) calling his mom letting me know he arrived safely (talking to me on the phone!) Day one, he nailed it. He was a self proclaimed independent young man now!
This routine was successful for many, many years. So, what do we do? Switch on to auto pilot. As our son grew, regaining his health to a better degree, he was taking on more and more responsibility for his own day. We all were getting very comfortable not taking all the precautions like in the early years. And grown he has, right to a strapping 6 ft. 4 inch, 240 pound handsome young man. In Autism Land, when things are going pretty smoothly it’s called a “honeymoon”.
Waiting for the bus, in his chair watching out the front window one random morning, was my son. Ever vigilant of the passing vehicles, he still carries anxiety that he may miss the bus, and so he waits. He has a clock in the living room to keep on the time, has his coat on, hands on the backpack, and waits for his ride.
The driver was early. So, he thought he would go around the block to kill a little time. Why not? what if our son wasn’t quite ready? That. Was. A. Bad. Plan.
“WAIT FOR ME!!!!!!!” Thundered my grown son ~ so startled in the other room, I almost wet my pants. He launched out that chair, threw open the front door, and tore down the street. His arms were held high, and was off. Oh, man – did he ever run. Full on panicked adrenal rush, he hauled it so fast, my mouth gaped open.
The driver must have seen him in the mirrors, or heard him screaming “WAIT FOR ME! WAIT FOR ME! WAIT FOR ME!”. The driver instantly realized how poor his choice was to circle the block. I stood in the driveway, robe, wet hair, and not just a little worried for the man’s life. The end of our honeymoon……
My son reached the bus, I saw the door open, I held my breath. “What were you THINKING driving by my house?”……”Have you lost your mind?” I saw him pause and step slowly on board and take the back seat.
The call from Transportation received later that morning was classic. The two men who run the bus were more than concerned about the incident, however, they were throughly chastised for their bad choice. It was a “man to man” chat. Sounds like my son railed them all the way to school. And this was a child who didn’t have the words to say what he meant for most of his lifetime.
That was the morning that we learned our son could speak up for himself. We, his parents, were speechless.
~ Wendy Frye
“Don’t confuse fame with success. Madonna is one; Helen Keller is the other.” ~ Erma Bombeck