Life in the Repetitive Lane

If anything is likely to nudge me over the edge it’s constantly being asked what we are doing next. And for that I blame visual timetables and the ‘First and Then’ approach taught to us by the Autism Communication Teams we have been involved with.

It’s thought that children with autism learn better through visual prompts and that they assist with every day tasks such as toileting. For example, we had a strip of symbols that showed a toilet, flushing and washing hands (think some adults I know would benefit from this) or we would have pictures to show the order of the day; breakfast, school, shopping, bath, cleaning teeth, bed. It just enables a child with autism to cope better with what is about to happen. The downside to it is if you rely too heavily on it and you have to adjust your day, it could cause an increased amount of anxiety for the child.

Let me be clear on this. I am thankful we were introduced to these strategies to help Joseph deal with situations and prepare him for what the day or week holds. What I dislike is, he doesn’t appear to need it as much now but still harps on about what we are doing for the next few days.

Our ‘conversations’ go something like this.

Joseph: We’re going to…?

Me: Nowhere

Joseph: Tomorrow it’s Tuesday and we’re going to …?

Me: School

Joseph: And then?

Me: Home

Joseph: And then?

Me: Dance class

Joseph: And then?

Me: Bath

Joseph: And then?

Me: Bed

Joseph: And after bed?

Me: Get up

You can see how this is going can’t you? Sometimes I find myself giving a verbal plan for the next seven days before I even know I’ve done it and I know Joseph wouldn’t stop there if I continued. I predict that in the future, I will still be sitting there two years later going through a list of what we are going to do for the remainder of our days.

My favourite dialogue was at the start of the school holidays.

Me: Joseph, no more school for seven weeks. It’s the school holidays. (I don’t think he actually understands what seven weeks means)

Joseph: And then?

Me: Well, back to school

Joseph: No more back to school!

It’s quite possible he does actually need this and he has a desire to know in full our life plans but even if I tell him once that day, I get asked at least another forty-two times. And it drives me fucking nuts. I’m not even aware that I’ve been suckered into it sometimes as it forms a huge chunk of our daily lives and I do it without even being conscious of it.

There is no doubting that Joseph likes repetition but I find myself getting drawn into it and I want at all costs to avoid it. I don’t want him to fall to pieces if we don’t do dance class then bath. I don’t want him to throw a royal wobbly if we actually throw caution to the wind and go to bed without having a bath. I want him to be able to function without such rigidity and feel confident that if we don’t do the things I have told him about forty-two shitting times, the world isn’t going to end.

That actually may mean I am making life a little less comfortable for Joseph in the short-term but I always hope that short-term pain means benefits in the long run.

Every so often, I answer to Joseph  I’M NOT ANSWERING THE QUESTION AGAIN! and throw my own strop before he walks up to me, tells me to smile and then I fall into the trap of rattling off what we are doing for the forthcoming two days.

I am often told that I am a good planner and organiser and like to know everything in advance…well maybe some of Joseph’s traits aren’t anything to do with his autism and could just be he’s a slightly smaller version of me.

So what are we doing tomorrow then?

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Carmen Flener says:

    At the risk of getting a cussing-LOL, I’m going to ask. Does he have a book with a removable daily picture word schedule? Does it have a pocket for him to put finished tasks in. Does it have extra pictures in the back in case something different comes up that he needs to be prepared for. Does you have a reward system in place for when he can go x amount of time without asking what’s next? Don’t tell him what’s next. Give him his picture schedule and make him read it. You’ve probably heard all of this but it’s worth a mention in case you hadn’t. I know it’s not as easy as it sounds because I am a teacher of children on the autism spectrum.

  2. Tina Medlock says:

    Hi Carmen

    LOL yes we have tried most of these but we can always try again 😉 x

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