I have recently undertaken a major life transition. I took a job in England, left my job of 16 years, sold my house and my car, and gave away or sold almost everything I have ever owned! My husband and I have been working on this on different sides of the Atlantic, and are only due to be reunited next week. I have been here now for two and half months and this experience has seriously deepened my empathy for those on the spectrum who have difficulty when their routines are disrupted!
Over these past weeks, I have been completely out of my normal routines. The routines that used to be second nature to me, such as knowing how to operate my shower, make coffee in the morning, start my car, use my washer and dryer, turn on the stove, get a credit card, drive down the road, do my job, and so on and so forth have all been new. England may seem familiar to Americans, since the same language is spoken here (sort of!) but it is a different country and things are truly done differently. I have been out of my element. And this has led me to realize that I had no idea of how comforting my routines of daily life were until I didn’t have any!! And when I have been in this overwhelmed and insecure state of mind, I have found making choices much more difficult than before, often because I don’t understand the choices well (such as the choice of electricity providers and different rates one can get depending the electricity plan you choose) or because I am already in overload and one more thing puts me over the edge. I remember when the secretary at my new office pointed out a different parking lot that I could use if the main one was full and I could barely handle that information!! Now it seems silly (or maybe not so much for those who understand how serious my directional impairment is!!) but at the time I felt close to tears. What – I now had two different places to find?!!!
As we go through life, we develop so many routines and we become competent in them, secure in our ability to cope because we know that is how things are done. I have thought many times over the past weeks that my own feelings must be similar to the feelings of those on the spectrum when their routines are disrupted and how insecure this might lead them to feel at those moments. I remember how my ASD father would stress when we traveled about how his shower routine might be disrupted, and the steps he would take and the things he would say so that he could preserve this routine as much as possible. I used to find it annoying, since it was difficult at times to accommodate him taking an hour in the bathroom when were all sharing a motel room and eager to get on to our vacation plans. This experience has led me to have new empathy for all those who struggle without their familiar routines. It can be very hard!!!
What sort of experiences have you had that have helped you to understand the need for routine?
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