Imagine every day waking up and repeating that day over and over and over again, sort of like in the movie "Groundhog Day". Now, imagine if you ever veered from that day that your world would come to a stumbling, grinding halt and you couldn't proceed until everything went back to the way it is suppose to be.
Another analogy is if you were forced to use your left hand instead of your right hand. (If you are right hand dominant) You would get frustrated just opening the fridge. Eventually the frustration would come out in anger.
This is the world of Autism.
Every single human on this earth whether neurotypical or not thrives on routines. We wake up at a certain time, go to school at a certain time, leave work at a certain time; however, breaking those routines can be fun. An example of this is when we play hooky or sick or just get a vacation. This isn't true for people on the spectrum. They do NOT enjoy breaking their routine even for something fun, typically.
Parents of children with autism get into routines with our little ones for many reasons: to keep the peace, to keep them happy, to keep our lives actually running, and many more reasons.
Routines can include where we go eat at, on what day we eat there, even down to the time we eat there, where we sit when we eat there and that is just for one place. It can also include when they go to bed, where they wash up at, which wash rag they use, who gets into the car first (don't get shocked, my son HAD to be the first one to open the door of the car otherwise he would scream), and who gets to speak first.
Quite a few years ago, I had created this perfect world for my child. I was ran ragged trying to force our world into this predictable pattern, to keep my son calm and happy. Then one day we had an appointment with the developmental pediatrician. She said to me, "Don't let the Autism enslave your family."
I went home and cried, but it was the truth, we danced a fine dance to a fine tune with Autism in this household. Then I said, "NO MORE ROUTINES."
It was the best decision I ever made. Obviously, we still have some routines such as bedtime, going to school, and so on. However, not every part of our lives are defined by a routine.
The following is just my opinion on what I have seen happen in my own household and other family's with autism.
Routines do not allow for change to happen. Routines do not allow for personal growth. Routines do not allow for children to grow up and bend with what life throws at you.
I had many specialists argue with me over this, but I insisted that most of our life still carried the normal daily routines, such as when they brushed their teeth, but I had to be able to take them multiple places without my son headbanging.
An example of life BEFORE I changed it: My daughter was ill and needed antibiotics. We went to the doctor and got a prescription. Well, one place did not carry the prescription or was out of it. I had to travel to another pharmacy. My son had an outright fit. SCREAMED AND SCREAMED and banged his head with his hands, slapped himself, hand flapped and the like.
If this happens now he doesn't have such a large reaction. You may be asking yourself how I did this. Well, pretty simple. I just would switch up our lives.
I would tell the kids that we were going to Target and go to Wal-Mart instead. We would walk into Target and walk right back out. I would go to the grocery store and just leave. If he wanted to be first in the car I would hold his hand and tell him, "No, your sissy is getting into the car FIRST." Yes, it was hard. Yes, it took a lot of work, but eventually the kids were able to bend to changes in our daily lives.
The other advice I can give is to not stay inside. I have had people tell me my son should be in an institute. I just ignored them no matter how much their comments hurt. Taking them to places like the zoo, the aquarium, amusement parks, and other public places have gotten easier. No matter how difficult it was I still took them. No matter how much they screamed and cried at not being in their routine I still treated them to the zoo and they are better for it. Don't let Autism rule your world. Don't let it stop you from being an active family.
Understand that it's a condition and the only way to treat it is to continue to be an active out-going family.
Remember having Autism is like being left-handed in a right-handed world. We just operate a little differently!