The Routine – Adventures in Autism

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I had the unenviable, though highly enjoyable, task of getting the kids off to school all by myself this week.  Beth’s starting a new job, and needed to be out of town for training. 

She had to leave by 6 every morning, so the house was up and moving a little earlier than usual anyway.

I’ve discovered that the best way to get a family of kids off to two different schools in two different towns is excessive use of forethought and some pre-planning.  For instance, the next day’s hot lunch menu is consulted and preparations are made ahead of time for the picky kids.  Assorted books and papers and folders are neatly tucked into back packs the night before (when possible).  We haven’t gone as far as laying out outfits yet, but I suspect we’ll get there – Liv is NOT a morning person!

This was a short week because of Labor Day.  There were only 4 days.  By the end of day two, I realized that the best way to keep three kids on task with the assorted dozen or so steps from bed to car would be to create a road map, or routine.  I enlisted the help of all of the kids in deciding what should be on the list.  I even tossed in a few of my own – make your bed, and make sure your laundry finds its way to the hamper.  Once the list was ready, I had Olivia break it down into three categories: FIRST, THEN, FINALLY. 

Here's the routine, as seen on the kitchen table, on top of an assortment of backpacks and lunch boxes.

Here’s the routine, as seen on the kitchen table, on top of an assortment of backpacks and lunch boxes.

I figured it was sure-fire. 

I was wrong. 

While going over some last-minute things late Wednesday night, I found an incomplete assignment of Jake’s.  It wasn’t going to take us long, but of course he never mentioned it, so it would need to be done in the morning.  

Thursday morning, Jake comes flying down over the stairs, fully dressed, and proudly announces, “I’m done FIRST!”  He clearly meant the FIRST section of my routine.  Everything was looking up!  He was trying to power through NEXT when I tried to get him to attend to his homework.  Here’s the problem.  Apparently, control of the television in the morning is a hot topic around the house.  Jake has been known to run downstairs immediately upon waking just so he can grab and hide the TV remotes from his siblings.  This Thursday morning, he was struggling between two forces – his need to follow the ordered list, and his need to dominate the TV.  It was a tough power struggle to be in the middle of.  Needless to say, Gabe and Liv made it to FINALLY before he did, and iCarly won the day.  Jake was mad.  

Thursday night we made sure all scholastic work was finished before settling the kids in for the night.  Jake found a spot on the back of his bedroom door for the ROUTINE.  We had already declared his control of the TV.  If the other two wanted to, they could watch Netflix on the computer in their free time.  Mind you, we’re only talking about 20 minutes or so, but hey, that’s not the point.  

Friday morning (this morning), things went much better.  Jake stuck to his ROUTINE, as did the neuro-typicals, and Mario Kart 8 was the entertainment of choice.  Liv played on Pinterest anyway, and Gabe was Player 2.  Everybody wins.  

If there’s a moral, it’s this:  

Kids really like to know what it expected of them.  For kids like Jake who take longer to process (GO TO SCHOOL was his suggestion by the way, and it came 10 minutes after I asked), a written schedule can be really soothing.  Also, just because you write it in permanent marker doesn’t mean it won’t need some tweaking.  Or a lot.  

Four school days down.  About 167 left to go!  Wish us luck. 

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