Someone once told me that it takes 3 weeks to form a new routine, a new habit. I have no idea the science or truth behind this amount of time, but I often think about this every time we try to implement something new with our son. Change, as you likely know, is not something that many kids on the spectrum deal with well, my son included. He likes his routine, and pushes hard against almost anything new that you try to throw at him. So, when I am trying to implement a new goal, I have to remind myself, 3 weeks to make a real change.
I will say that whether this is backed by science or not, first-hand experience has showed this timeline to be pretty accurate for us, give or take some time depending on the factors involved. Now, I try to keep in mind that this 3-week mark is set with the idea that the change is occurring daily. 3 weeks of constant with the new item. If the new item is really something you only do once a week, it will likely take a lot longer to establish a routine. Or if you are changing things within the new routine too, that will also affect the timeline. An example of this is food, and it is one of the reasons why food is one of the more difficult changes for us. You can establish a certain routine to help keep the feeding experience the same, but each new food you introduce, will be another change in and of itself.
Sometimes we are lucky and everything clicks in place much sooner than that. The easier the change, the shorter it is to implement. I would advise that if you are trying to establish something new, you set it up exactly as you want it to be the first time around. The more various you make, the more it will feel like it is changing each time. A recent personal example of this was starting a new neurofeedback program with a local provider for Damion. It was our first session; New place, new person, new thing that we were doing that required sticky things to be on his head. The person running everything was trying to ease everything in, saying we could skip a few steps since it was his first time, with hopes that he would keep him calmer. But I was adamant. Set it up this time exactly as it will be every time. I’m so thankful that I did this, because by even our second visit, he knew what to do and the routine was already starting to be established.
Now, to those dealing with large meltdowns or other non-ideal pushbacks, I know that 3 weeks may seem like an eternity. Fortunately for us, that 3-week mark is really a gradual improvement through that time frame. It is not 3 weeks of constant meltdowns and then suddenly something clicks and it’s finally easy. There is push back, and I’m not going to lie and say it is easy, but as the time continues on, the pushback becomes less and less. The new item starts to form its place in our everyday life as a routine.
Even though change isn’t favored, it is part of life. Inevitable really. And if you are a “pusher” like me, change is something we are always working toward on one front or another. It is important to have a realistic idea in mind of how long it takes to make a change. Otherwise, when things get hard it is easier to throw in the towel. It is much easier to complete a race when you have the finish line in site. Keep pushing for the change. It may not be your easiest 3 weeks, but when you get a good new thing to stick, it will be worth it.
It is much easier to complete a race when you have the finish line in site.