Summer is Hard with Autism.
Parents of autistic kids are always trying to strike a balance between the routine and the new, between comfort and the unknown. During these long summer days, I’m constantly moving between letting Martin do the things he likes and trying to offer him at least a little structure. I ask myself questions such as, “Should I ask Martin to work on this handwriting workbook or let him play with figurines for another half hour?” or “What can a reward for good behavior possibly be on a day when a kid has already played in the sprinkler and eaten 2 popsicles?”
Martin is doing pretty well, almost too well. He really likes the lack of structure. In fact, he resists the moment we impose even a bit of order on his day. That’s the autism paradox: a love of order alongside a refusal to try to new forms of order. Once you struggle to get an order into place, you’re tempted to keep it for the next 15 years.
So who knows what will happen on Friday. We’ll try to tell Martin about visiting the White House, including what we can see and what we cannot see. We’ll ensure him that a White House tour and visit to the National Zoo will be more fun than he can possibly imagine. We’ll try to convince him that new is good. But I’m not a great salesperson. I too eagerly acknowledge complicating factors (hello, I’m a decent historian). I’m far too willing to admit – and be flustered – when a problem arises.
So we’re in a summer mystery zone. A place between order and chaos. A time between old and new. Martin seems to like it. The question is whether or not it’s good for him.
0 thoughts on “Summer is Hard with Autism.”
I still have a bit of trouble imposing my own structure and routine. If left to my own devices, not a whole lot gets done. I goof off in my own little world. Hours can go by and I won’t even notice. If someone is going to “make” me do something I like to know what to expect when. At school, it was always this, then that, then the other thing. I knew what to expect and what was expected of me… when I am put in a new situation, if those expectations are unclear… I lose it. It isn’t so much the routine or the structure… it’s the knowing what is coming and what is expected of me that I need. Like Conflicted_Psyche’s brother, if you tell me to do something like take something out of the oven… I need to know all of the steps involved with taking something out of the oven or I’m going to go over to the oven, open the door, get blasted by the heat, and then refuse to do it.
Instructions have to be clear. You can’t tell me, “Straighten out this area here,” and then wave your arm in a vague general direction that could be any number of things that need to be straightened… if you want aisles 1-9 straightened by me by 8 pm… then tell me that, and you might want to show me what you mean by straighten the aisles, because I will pull everything off the shelves and put it back in the right place if left to my own interpretation of that “order”… and then grumble about it the whole time because there is no way in this world that could get done in an hour while still running back to the register to ring people up. Telling me, “don’t be so detailed, just get what’s obvious” is also not quite enough, because what is obvious to me is not necessarily what is obvious to everyone else.
So, I’m not sure it is so much structure or routine as it is the need for clear expectations and instructions.
I can certainly sympathize. It seems like bringing some structure would be good for Martin and it may make the transition easier for when it comes time to return to school. But at the same time, most kids during their summer breaks goof off.
I like what you are doing, trying to get him excited about seeing the White House and the zoo. I don’t think all structure has to be workbooks. Going on a tour brings enough structure as it is! Good luck with it!
My younger brother has Asperger’s and whenever we introduce him to something new, we have to do it in baby steps. For instance now we are trying to teach him some cooking skills and I made the mistake of asking him the first time to get something out of the oven. He was overwhelmed by the heat, where to look for the oven mitts etc. So instead I started him off with stirring a pot instead. Often times because he is doing his own thing, to get him to help and learn something new, I try to have him do something that will be to his own benefit. So I had him help make Mac N Cheese, something he could immediately eat afterward and thus rewarded for learning his new skill.