Chris loves spending time at his grandparents. You know how grandparents give you sweets when your parents aren’t looking, rub your back when their back hurts more than yours ever will, buy you 2-3 presents at a time? Multiply that by 100, that’s our grandparents. Spoiled rotten he is when he’s there..but then again, so am I.
So, over the years the relationship has been a bit rocky as he would throw tantrums when we went, he would’t let them hug him or kiss him, they wouldn’t know about a new habit he’s picked up etc. This is yet another example of how they are adaptable, persistence and consistency are key.
We used to only go to my nan for visits. Then when both my parents were at work and i was at school. Then he went to school so back to just visits. Now, he has almost a daily interaction with them, which he loves. His routine is to go there and have his tea, while he plays – for hours – with whipped cream. It’s something about the texture that he just loves. Then he’ll have dinner, then he’ll maybe have a nap and then cream again. His routine there used to involve watching cartoons, or going to the shop with granpa. He’ll still do those things, but over the years his routine changes, it goes on for a couple of years and then changes again. For example, when he was younger my dad bought him a trampoline so big, it could only be set up in my nans garden. His routine then would be tea, trampoline, maybe a movie, dinner; maybe an ice ream, maybe a walk. He learned to adapt.
When we warn him that nans is just a pit stop, he understands it now, he doesn’t need the routine as soon as he walks through the door. We can incorporate activities and visits during that time and he will gladly go along with it as long as he has warning, it’s on his schedule, he knows the time and he gets to do the things he wants to do as well – if we have time.
The great thing about flexible routine, or pre-planned spontaneity is that it works for parents and children. It’s the best way to avoid tantrums, and to drag them out of their own little universe. Plan your activities, but every time incorporate something new, and they’ll get used to it. Keep the basic routine that keeps them calm and happy in the background, just so they have a safety net but insert a new activity – however small – so that they adapt to the routine of doing something new every time.
Autism is like a trampoline, everything is up in the air and you never land in the same place twice. It’s a world full of surprises, uncertainty. Yet once you work on it, hard work becomes fun and it makes you smile. There’s an easy way and a hard way but either way you’re on it, so embrace it.
When was the last time you were on a trampoline?