So, for the first part of the routine chapter I chose the airport.
1) Travelling: When we book tickets we inform him immediately. It’s incorporated in his schedule for the year; he is shown pictures and videos of the place so he knows what to expect. He used to be difficult to travel with but now, with the help of his schedule, he enjoys the process. He oversees my mums packing, queues, waits for luggage, leaves his seatbelt on through the flight; he handles flights better than we do! As he grew he became more flexible, so we don’t have to carry around a bag with all his food in it any more (as mentioned in Not everything is black or white). He’s been to Sri Lanka enough times to know exactly what to expect and to even ask for activities we miss out on sometimes.
2) Airport trips: One of his favourite things to do is picking up people form the airport or taking them there. We tell ourselves its because he misses us, but we all know its for the bake rolls. Because of his dietary restrictions he’s not allowed gluten (as discussed in Best food critic in town) but he loves bake rolls. My mum has had a long-term agreement with him that he is only allowed to have them when he goes to the airport. So, it’s on his schedule and he reminds me every time we speak. He walks in, goes straight to the shop, gets his garlicky bake rolls and his lemon Ice Tea and sits outside arrivals waiting (usually for me). By the time I come out the is usually done, and we have our hugs and kisses. Sometimes, he might not be in the mood to but he will anyway because he knows by now that its expected of him.
I know the struggle that families go through to pull their kids out of their comfort zones, to never let them give up, to force them to try new things, and it is something we have done/are doing ourselves, but it might be better to incorporate those changes into their routine. This will make their transition from comfort zone to the ‘new’ a bit less daunting. Add one small new thing every week/month and gradually increase it. Don’t make it into a big deal, don’t put pressure when they refuse to do it the first few times. Be persistent, be consistent; they respond to routine, to repeated actions. So when you introduce a new thing every week it will become part of their general routine. So, one day a week they have in their schedules do something new with a family member; you’ll be surprised how easily they will accept it.
So! Next time you see a kid running around in an airport, a mum frantically running after it, a family with wayyy more bags than members, or a child that can’t seem to settle down on an airplane, be sympathetic, understanding, try and put yourself in their position. Learn about autism, help us make the world autism-friendly.