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When I wake up in the morning I have a strict schedule that I have to follow. I created it myself. Even though it’s summer and I don’t have school, I still have camp Monday through Friday. My summer routine starts off with me waking up at 7:00 AM. I try to get out of bed by 7:10 and get downstairs, dressed and ready for the day, by 7:20. I have time to eat breakfast, pack a lunch, sunscreen myself, and pet my dog! I need to be out the door by 7:50 AM for carpool. Within the half hour I have between getting downstairs and leaving, I have my set “checklist” of things that I do. In reality, some of these things aren’t necessary (unlike eating breakfast and sun screening). These activities consist of getting the goop “eye boogies” out of my dog’s eyes and picking feathers out of the family room pillows. I know that these are not “typical” activities. These are things I feel I have to do… no matter what!
I usually have time to do these things except for one situation that seems too common in a teenager’s life… being late. I am supposed to get out of bed each morning by 7:10, but I often find myself in bed until 7:30. I have to rush to get ready for the day and get downstairs. When I get downstairs, I know that I don’t have enough time to do the dog’s “eye boogies” and pick feathers out of the pillows. But, my impulsive actions get the better of me. No matter how late I may be, I always have to do these actions even though this will cause me to be even later. My need to do something that I consider part of my routine (even when I don’t have time) is becoming quite a dilemma in my household.
Part of my Autism includes feeling the need to do certain behaviors regardless of the time factor involved. In my example, when I’m late, it’s the wrong time to be picking “eye boogies” and feathers. I think “typical” people realize that they can’t do certain things when they are running late. In the moment, I don’t realize how unnecessary an action may be at that time. I just know that I have to do it before I do anything else. My family and I are constantly trying to come up with different ideas to help me in these situations.
One tip for parents and caregivers is to use the process of what my parents call “natural consequences.” If your child is late and has to do an action, try letting him/her do it. When they arrive late to school or another important activity, they will receive the natural consequences (for example: getting a tardy at school and having to stay in during recess). Hopefully after a few times, the reality of natural consequences will kick in. Also, your child can’t get mad at you because it isn’t your fault they got a consequence! My parents admit that they are not consistent enough with allowing natural consequences to occur when it involves being late. While it’s me that has Autism, in reality, Autism is a family affair. Everyone must work together to help me function at my best.