Most of us live by some amount of routine in our lives. For those individuals with autism, routine is most definitely not just a part of their lives, but a necessity. This is certainly true for Aaron. And when that routine is broken, we never know just how he’ll react. This is why I was a little worried about how his first morning back at his day group, Paradigm, was going to go. Would he be a willing participant as we switched back to the “old” morning routine, or would he be angry and rebellious? I knew that it could go either way.
Aaron came downstairs yesterday on our first “normal” morning that we have had in a week. All the snow from our two big storms have kept him home. I inwardly cringed as I heard him coming slowly down the stairs. He had just gotten out of bed and so was moving slowly. I had prayed earlier in the morning about Aaron’s attitude, and I shot up another quick prayer as he lumbered into the kitchen.
He was disheveled and his eyes were droopy. His body sagged and he had no vitality at all. Oh yeah, Aaron was playing the part of a victim very well………..a victim of being jerked back to reality and having to resume normalcy. I smiled at him and cheerily said, “Well, good morning, Aaron!”
He continued to droop and then very wearily said, “I’m tired.” He continued to stand there looking at me, even sagging a bit more in his effort to show me that this day was just more than he could possibly bear. When his comment and his visual demonstration got no response from me, he flatly continued……..”I read a long time.”
It still makes me laugh to think of how perfectly he was seizing this opportunity to appeal to my mother heart. I was as chirpy as a spring bird as I confirmed to him that I knew he was tired and I knew he had read a long time the night before, but that I also knew a warm shower and some hot coffee would work wonders on his depleted self. He stood there, with his pajama shirt hanging out of his pajama pants that were dragging on the floor around his feet………the perfect picture of dejection and exhaustion……….and in some disbelief he asked, “So do I have to go?”
I went about my work in the kitchen, seemingly oblivious to his distress…..and hoping that he was equally oblivious to the fact that I was dreading his reaction to what I knew I must say. I calmly replied, “Well, Aaron, Dad went to work both yesterday and today. I have to get back to my physical therapy today, and all the kids are back in school. So, yes, today you get to go back to Paradigm.”
He stood there, absorbing this reality, and pondering something. I soon learned that he was pondering a deal………..a deal concerning his keyboard that we remove every night before bed, and then hook back up to his computer while he is away the next day. “Mom,” he began, “can we do this thing where you put the keyboard in before I leave?” In other words, Aaron wanted to watch me put the keyboard in just before we left for his group……….not so he could use it but so that he could just have the comfort of knowing that it was plugged in and ready for him to use when he returned home. I have actually done this before and it worked well, so I didn’t need to think long before I told Aaron that yes, I would do that. I would plug in his keyboard before we left provided he shower and get all ready to go.
He gladly accepted this counter deal, and his sagging body straightened. He took his pills as he watched me pour his coffee, and soon he was in the shower. Not long after, as I was getting ready, I heard him outside my bedroom door. He knocked on my locked door, and I heard him flatly ask again, “Do I really have to go?” He was hanging on to a thread of hope that somehow I had considered his plight and changed my mind. So I reaffirmed that he was going to Paradigm, and of course he asked, “So can you put the keyboard in?”
“Did you shower, Aaron?” To which he answered yes and to which I confirmed that the keyboard would be plugged in BEFORE we left. We had this same confirming conversation several times over the next 45 minutes………Aaron continuing to ask about the keyboard and me continuing to say yes……….until finally I just gave him my “mom” look and he knew that the answer was yes and also knew that mom was weary of the one-track questioning. The questioning did not stop, however, until we were ready to leave and he oversaw me plugging in the keyboard.
And then he asked, “Mom, are you going to leave the keyboard in?”
Good grief, Aaron……….HUSH ABOUT THE KEYBOARD!!!!!
He seemed to get the message, as our drive to meet his group was full of talk about Decepticons and Autobots and other Transformer “stuff” that makes no sense to me…….but was a relief because it had nothing to do with keyboards.
He burst in the house at his usual time, and I thought that if his first comment had the word “keyboard” in it then I just might toss his keyboard in one of our backyard snowdrifts. Thankfully, though, his first comment was, “Mom! We had pizza!” He proceeded to tell me about the pizza he had for lunch and then said, “I don’t have any money left. I used it at Quik Trip. I used it for me and Rosie.” He told me how he had bought Rosie a lemonade and himself a bottle of water.
We had our usual discussion about how he’s not supposed to use his money for Rosie. I reminded him that one reason for this is because Rosie’s mom doesn’t want Aaron giving Rosie money for food. To which Aaron very matter-of-factly replied, “It was not food. It was drink.”
Have I discussed recently that individuals with autism not only love routines, but are also very literal?
I laughed as he went upstairs to check on that keyboard.