Once again holidays are upon us. A time for rest, recuperation and fun with a touch of sun burn thrown in for good measure. So, why is it that for so many facing the challenges that Autism has to bring this can be a very difficult time?
We’ve all heard ‘Education Education Education’ and ‘Location Location Location’ but now it’s time for ‘Structure Structure Structure!’. Structure and routine are often serious issues for those on the Spectrum. Even to those without the almost obsessive need to know ‘what, where, when’ there is often an underlying need for structure. We may not always see it as some do but it is there.
I’m sure, like me, many of you all remember the mundane and brain jellifying ‘routine’ of school. The same subjects….same times…..same patterns to each and every day and week. Some of us would go as far as to call it ‘Hell’, I know I did! But, to those on the Spectrum those things that can be a torment to us are actually fairly comforting. Structure and routine bring ‘stability’ and a ‘KNOWN’ factor to what is happening. It is worth remembering again how on the whole for most of us we are relaxed about what is happening around us. We have a good mapped out idea of how each day and week is going to play out.
For example we all know that at some point of the day we will have our dinner and often we know the part of the day it will be had in. We may not know first thing in the morning the exact timing that we will have our dinner…….but we are safe in the knowledge that whenever it is it will happen. To someone that has an issue with structure and routine a simple little thought like that is their ‘hell’. The lack of structure and the ‘known’ brings about a loss of security.
Not knowing that something IS going to happen means there is a good chance it may not and so panic and worry can set in. For many the simple processing of information itself can pose the problem that a structure is heavily relied upon to get through the day. Some can get by with the simple comfort of knowing a day will be the same as others gone before, others are happy just by seeing a ‘timeline’ or breakdown of the day’s events but some need the constant reassurance of a schedule to hand so that it can be checked hour by hour.
That ‘Hell’ of school we may have felt brings comfort to others. Imagine then what can happen in the mind of anyone on the Spectrum when we remove that ‘comfort’. The breaking from school means a loss of uniformity to the day. Everything that has previously been done for a reason is suddenly meaningless. “ I get up at this time for school…..I breakfast at this time for school……I put my uniform/clothes on for school ” becomes “ I’m getting up at this time for????……Having breakfast now for????…..etc” there is no security or comfort in open thoughts like those.
The sudden loss of that comforting structure is often what leads to the problems that many parents can face at Holiday times making them not as pleasant as they maybe could be.