We all have a routine. We get up, we eat breakfast, we get dressed, we leave the house. Or maybe in your family breakfast is the last thing you do before heading out for the day. Or maybe you don’t eat breakfast at all!! Whatever your routine, you wake up expecting the day to go a certain way.
Connor’s autism manifests itself most often in his own expectations. It’s clear that Connor has a very precise view of how the day is going to go. He knows what he wants and when he wants it. Connor is determined and “passionate” about getting his expectations of the world to line up with what is actually happening.
A few weeks ago, we woke up early one morning to prepare for school. Or at least I thought we were preparing for school. Connor went to the choice board and asked for goldfish. Fine. Goldfish crackers for breakfast can’t really be any better or worse than fruit loops. I handed him his bowl of goldfish and his juice, EXPECTING him to sit in his seat at the table and have his “breakfast”. Connor had different expectations. He looked up at me and asked “Lion of Sodor?” Which sounded a little like “wion of sodo?” But I knew what he meant. Connor was referring to a Thomas the Train video that he particularly likes. I felt somewhat shocked. What? Lion of Sodor at 7:45 on a Wednesday morning? Connor clearly expected to take his crackers and juice into the family room and watch his favorite Thomas movie.
And when I said no, we had to go to school, it was as if I had crushed his tiny dreams! He immediately fell apart! Crying! Screaming! Gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair! If he’d beaten his chest and torn his shirt, it would have been a complete Greek tragedy. Why, oh why was I the worst mommy in the world? Why wouldn’t I let him skip school for Thomas movies? Why did he have to sit at a table and eat? What was wrong with me?!? Obviously this was all implied and not actually stated, but I got the message loud and clear.
All because his expectations of the morning didn’t match up with reality.
If this had been a year ago the tantrum would have continued for an hour, at least. But now that he is a mature 3-year-old, with nearly a year of ABA training under his belt, the tantrum ceased after a mere five minutes. Oh happy day!
Yet, as an adult, I know people (as in other adults) who do not adapt as quickly when their expectations or routine is suddenly thrown off. And to be quite honest, I’ve been known to pout if someone messes with my routine.
Take this morning, for example . I typically take the dogs for a walk directly after breakfast. The exercise and fresh air give me a chance to clear my head for the day. They also provide me with a meditative space to think of my blog topic for the day, which I write immediately after we get home. Today I was going to write all about my new adventures in menu planning (exciting right?), but I was completely thrown off by an incident on my walk.
My dogs like to stop frequently to sniff the vegetation and Dodger, in particular, likes to mark his way along the path. This morning, tragedy struck. At the precise moment Penny bent down to sniff a plant, Dodger raised his leg to mark the same exact plant. The result: Penny got a face full of pee.
All thoughts of anything other than that my one dog had just peed on the face of my other dog flew from my head! “These two were getting a bath the second we get home” was all I could think.
No blog topic. No sitting down to write with ideas fresh in my head. No leisurely shower alone.
Instead my thoughts were almost like a mantra “pee on head. pee on head. pee on head.” My shower is completely filthy, since I wash my dogs inside as they’re both terrified of water and Dodger requires a special allergy shampoo. This means that every time they get out of a shower, my bed room is covered in flying dog water as they shake themselves dry. This means my room, my bed, my clothes, smell like wet dog for the next 12 hours.
And I still needed to write my blog!
Ok, maybe I’m not really pouting, but the dogs seriously threw me off my schedule and it took me at least a few minutes to collect myself and get back on track. So…congratulations Connor, you’ve reached the same level of acceptance as your mother. Well done.