Autism comes with a lot of adjusting and learning on the parents’ side. Individuals with autism require different levels of care and ways of conducting life than their neurotypical peers. A huge reason for this has to do with autism obsessions, rituals and routines.
Andrew has so many routines and obsessions that I do not even know where to start to list them all. I myself suffer from OCD and pray that he is not going down the same road as I have experienced. The latest craziest one I guess I can say is that he is obsessed where the pillows on our living room sofa go. They must be placed in a certain place and in an exact fashion. If you move them he does notice and obsesses about it and can’t move on to the next task until he can move them back. We have tried hiding them, but mysteriously he happens to find them and places them back on the couch.
If you have a child with autism, you know what I’m referring to. Some children with autism have obsessions, some have routines, some have both.
What are autism obsessions, routines, & rituals?
A lot of people assume that the routines and obsessions associated with autism are simply OCD-but that’s not the case, usually. OCD is a disorder that involves a lot of anxiety, so much that it’s a driving force to think certain thoughts (obsessions) or do certain things (compulsions).
Autism obsessions, routines, and rituals are a bit different. While an individual with autism may do certain things because they’re anxious, a lot of what they do has to do with how their brain is wired. Doings things a certain way may make the world easier to understand in their terms.
Autism obsessions in a child like Andrew can come in the form of hyper focused attention on one area. For example, an adolescent with autism could have an intense focus on knowing absolutely everything about airplanes. How they work, how they’re made, the various ways they’re used, and more.
Routines can be a large part of a child’s life when it comes to autism. Many individuals with autism like things to go a certain way. If Andrew’s routine get messed with, then it will be a day of screams, tears, tantrums and meltdowns. Andrew’s new nighttime routine now consists of him sleeping on the floor and not on the bed. This started a few months ago. He refuses to sleep in it even after buying him sets of new sheets that he himself picked out. The predictability is comforting unpredictability can cause chaos. I hate this since I want him to comfortable, but its not worth the fight with him at night and to keep peace for the rest of the household.
Rituals are the actions an individual on the spectrum performs in times of anxiety or discomfort. The action may be anything from needing to drink from the same cup every buying the same book over and over again. Andrew has a few rituals that we try to break with ABA therapy, but we still have to conquer this one. He has 2 plates that he routinely eats on and will only use his red car fork. Andrew loves stickers. He is obsessed with a Disney Pixar cars sticker book. Every time we go to Barnes and Noble, he goes right to where the that same exact sticker book is and grabs it and says want it. Well my bad here, but it’s hard going in pubic sometimes since I don’t know how he will be or act. So to avoid any of this, I give in and just get it. We have literally over 20 of the same sticker books. Another example, is that on the Ipad, he will watch the same video over and over but gets upset if you try to make him watch it all the way through. The reason for the behaviors can be brought on by sensory sensitivity. Many individuals with autism struggle with sensory overload, but rituals help them to calm down and focus.
As a parent of a child with autism, you must do a lot of learning and accepting. This is very hard for me to do since I do not want Andrew to be a slave to OCD, rituals and routines. But, recognizing if an autism obsession, routine or ritual makes Andrew’s life easier then it will have to be to okay to embrace, and I will just have to carry on. I just love this kid..