The short answer to this post’s premise is “Don’t interrupt or disrupt our routines.”
When you’re dealing with us autistic folks – help mind the routines.
We don’t build them or follow them to inconvenience anyone. That would create awkwardness. We hate that as much as you do.
We develop routines — consciously or subconsciously — to add a sense of structure to our lives, minimizing stress, fear, meltdowns, anxiety, and more.
Would you rather we just teeter on edge and act out, crumble, lash out for a lack of routine? No.
Would you prefer we just live carefree and “go with the flow?” Well, uh, that doesn’t just work.
Routines are a kind of coping mechanism, but we get that our routines cannot dictate the entirety or majority of your life as it does ours.
So how can you help gracefully interject and alter our routines (if and when needed) without us blowing up or melting down?
I gotchu, fam.
Start with why, start with why, start. with. why. This one is just stupid easy: even if we don’t agree with the reason or the rationale, we at least know you’re being thoughtful about the interjection and will give us a chance to rationalize the need. Intentionality goes a long way.
Warn in advance. I’m not going to promise that we’re always going to like the events, but if you want to ensure the most civil outcome – get ahead of the surprise factor and just tell us ahead of time. Here’s a cheat: if you use early warnings as leverage to encourage us to deal with our reactions in the moment and during the event, we’ll play ball, ok?
Understand how routine disruption disrupts us. Sometimes our assessment of a day’s “goodness” or “badness” is predicated on predictability. And sometimes nothing more. The more you can help us navigate “the newly minted map,” the better. Expectations are hard to recalibrate, but not impossible.
Mitigate the impact. My work involves a lot of rocks and boulders of blocked time that, when shifted, make my day far less recoverable. Sometimes they just have to shift, and it’s incredibly irksome to my autistic core. They just are, and I can’t help that. Underneath the routine, though, there are goals: build dashboard X, present keynote Y — if there are other routines that can be altered or things made easier to help offset that disruption, we’re not going to turn take “making our lives easier.”
What do you find helpful when your routine has to budge, or when you have to budge a routine?