Autism and Murphy’s Law

It’s no secret that change, especially unexpected change can be very difficult for people on the spectrum to deal with. I feel like as a mother to a child with autism I go above and beyond to keep things in order and as routine as possible. Damion in particular thrives off of routine. He knows his daily schedule, his weekly schedule and if he learns it, he may even know your schedule too. Things run so smooth for him when he is living according to his preconceived schedule. But the world is unfortunately full of last-minute changes: Bad weather, someone gets sick, an emergency happens, etc. Sometime life just happens and that, my friends, is where the real struggle comes into play for us.

I’ll give you a great recent example. Thursday is one of Damion’s favorite days of the week; one, because it is extremely routine, and two, because it involves activities that he enjoys. Every Thursday after school I take the kids to their neurofeedback sessions, we go visit my grandmother who lives just outside of town, and then we pick up food from one of the kids’ favorite places (the same place every week). Now occasionally there are things that come up that need to take place on a Thursday, and given enough notice, Damion does very well with a one-week temporary change. But this past week there was no reason for me to think that things would be different than our typical schedule. Damion even went through his typical morning check before he got on the bus in which he recites what he knows his day after school would be, checking for my “yes that is correct” response that everything is set to go as planned. He always has his routine down to a tee. All was going as planned until Murphy’s law reared its ugly head.

I got a call mid-morning that my youngest had gotten sick at school and needed to be picked up. Obviously, I had to then cancel the rest of the plans for the day. My other kids were slightly bummed once they heard the news but brushed it off fairly well, like most kids do. Damion, however, had a complete meltdown after he heard the news. It was too big of a change for him, and not enough notice for him to be ok with that change.

So how do you deal with it? Those last-minute unexpected things that life throws at you. I can spend hours making charts and lists and plan out our lives out super far in advance, but I can’t control everything. I wish I had a good answer for this question myself but unfortunately, I haven’t cracked the code on it all as of yet. I have found ways to minimize some of these problems, mostly by waiting to tell the kids about any fun outings we may have until the very last minute, just in case something throws an unexpected wrench in our day. Sounds a little counterintuitive from what I just said above, I know, but I can say that last minute changes for extremely sought after events go over a lot differently than those normal routine changes or flat-out cancellations. Maybe there is something to it that I could expand on to help in those everyday instances as well? Something I could give or create at home that is highly coveted and only comes out on days when life has other plans? Don’t mind me as I work through this problem right here in the middle of writing this article.

Maybe one day I will have it all figured out. That seems like such a big chunk of my life sometimes; Just finding ways to think outside the box and get ahead of a problem before it even happens. Anyone have a crystal ball for sale that they aren’t using? In the meantime, I will just have to be happy with the fact that he has improved a lot when it comes to change. With enough notice we can talk through changes and things seem to be ok. Thankfully Murphy’s law with those last-minute bomb drops only strikes us maybe a few times a year, and although the backlash that arises from that is never fun to deal with, I am hopeful that he will continue to improve on being flexible when life’s plans have a mind of their own.