By Megan Amodeo
Do you ever think about what might happen if you can’t follow your daily scheduled events?
Let’s face it, life can be uncomfortable. We don’t always have control over our daily activities. You probably never give a second thought to your daily routine, unless things don’t go according to plan. Even then, it most likely won’t ruin your entire day if something happens to throw things off schedule.
I mean are you really going to have a meltdown if you can’t wear your favorite shoes?
Chances are you’ll pick a different pair, end of story. These scenarios may seem minor to some, but to those of us on the spectrum, these changes can be catastrophic. My youngest daughter eats the same kind of cereal every, single day. I try to keep mass quantities of this specific brand in the house at all times. I often buy it in bulk.
Those of us on the spectrum can become very upset if we don’t have our favorite foods available at all times. You probably think this isn’t a major problem, but I can tell you it certainly makes our lives infinitely better.
This morning, we ran out of the cereal. There wasn’t any in the pantry. There weren’t any bulk boxes in the basement. We ran out of THE cereal! I really can’t tell you how this could have possibly happened. Usually we have so many boxes, it appears as if I am running some sort of cereal pyramid scheme. If you are a kid from the ‘70’s, you might remember when moms sold Tupperware. Often boxes of Tupperware would crowd the living room and kitchen, so mom always had a few extras just in case she has a surprise sale. In my house, it’s cereal. cereal, cereal EVERYWHERE.
If the zombie apocalypse occurs anytime soon, I’ll have plenty of cereal to eat.
Back on topic. Us not having the cereal can cause a range of issues. I am bombarded with questions of why and how and when. When, is the most important question, because that means I need to get the cereal ASAP. Not having the cereal means she has to start her day on the wrong foot. It means her rituals are out of sync.
As autistic individuals, we cling to our rituals, schedules and predetermined activities.
These rituals are familiar, and provide comfort. We like sameness. This may seem odd or weird to neurotypicals, but for us, it is essential. We like eating the same foods every day, watching the same television shows over and over, and we often like wearing the same clothes for longer than seems appropriate to some.
My youngest daughter wore sweatpants to school every day for an entire year in elementary school. No amount of begging would change her mind. She liked the way sweatpants felt so that was what she would wear. My oldest daughter listens to the same band and the same songs every day on her way to school. My other two daughters would rather help choose the music they hear on the way to school together. Unfortunately for them, my oldest needs this ritual to calm herself before the start of her school day.
I know that others may find our rituals odd or, at times, annoying.
My husband is neurotypical. He has a difficult time understanding why I eat the same food for breakfast every morning. He has questioned why I don’t like variety. It’s not that I never want to eat anything different, it has more to do with the sameness of repeatedly eating something that I like.
Repetitive sameness is comforting.
In a world where people on the spectrum don’t always fit in, rituals provide necessary comfort. They help us calm ourselves before venturing out into the world. They provide relief. So, don’t worry if your child wants to eat the same thing every day. In my mostly all-autistic household, we’re doing just fine. And, hey, your shopping list will be short!