Aaron is very particular about time. He keeps a running list of the time he goes to bed and the time he gets up. He is rarely without his wristwatch, worn halfway up his arm. He is very precise when he states the time that he does something, such as, “Mom, I quit reading at 10:43 and went to bed at 10:44.” If I say, “So, you went to bed around 10:45,” he looks at me as if I am rather dense and then says, “No! I went to bed at 10:44!”
|Notice where Aaron wears his watch|
If he is tired of wearing his wristwatch and he comes out of his room to do something, he will often carry his watch with him. This is what he did one night recently when we were playing Skip-Bo. He very carefully set his watch up so that he could see it, and then he would give me a time update. “Mom, it’s 9:36.” “Mom, now it’s 9:43.” “Mom, it’s 9:52.”
“So it’s almost 10:00?” I asked. And true to form, Aaron answered, “No! It’s 9:52!”
At the theater, Aaron will sit with his popcorn perched on his lap……..but not eating any. He then gives a rundown of the time as he often glances at the lighted clock on the wall of the theater. “Mom, what time did you say the movie starts?” he asks. I tell him the time and he watches that clock, mentally ticking down the minutes. I will be happily munching my popcorn, but not Aaron. That’s because Aaron will not start eating his popcorn until the lights are dimmed and the movie actually starts. This is his unwritten popcorn rule, and the reason that he is so concerned with time at the theater.
So it’s no wonder that our time change this weekend was slightly stressful for Aaron, and more than slightly stressful for me. I told him on Saturday afternoon that we would be changing our clocks ahead one hour that night. This is nothing new to Aaron, of course, but it always throws him.
“So we go AHEAD one hour?” he questions. I told him yes, and he stood there pondering this change.
“So when I go to bed at 10:00 it will really be 11:00?” he asked. I said yes again, trying to be very low key as I watched him mentally processing this disturbing information.
Later that evening, as we played a game of Skip-Bo, he was getting nervous. He knew that 8:15 was really 9:15, so each ticking minute was causing him some stress. He was glad when we were finished and he could zip up to his room to take care of a couple things on his computer. Soon, though, he was thumping back down the stairs.
“Mom, it’s 9:46,” he said to me. He stood there waiting for my response. I knew what he was thinking, but I didn’t react.
“Well,” he continued, “that means it’s really 10:46. I need to go to bed!” I have rarely seen him so eager to take his pills, brush his teeth, and get in bed. He hardly even read his Handy Answer Science book because his clock that was now set to the correct time was reminding him that the previous 9:53 was actually now 10:53. For crying out loud, it was time to turn off his light and go to sleep!!
The next morning he didn’t get up until 7:41, to be precise……as Aaron always is. He came downstairs to find me looking at the Sunday paper………and he was not in a good mood. All this time change and then sleeping later did not sit well with Aaron. He asked about coupons in the paper, which he always clips for me, but he asked in an impatient manner. I told him that I wanted to look at the coupons first to see if I wanted a second set. This is our standard routine, but Aaron’s routine had messed up and so he was messed up as well.
He got angry as he stood there waiting on me to look through the coupons. He wouldn’t go shower, he wouldn’t get his coupon trash cans, he wouldn’t get his scissors, he wouldn’t get his sitting pillow out. Nope. He stood there waiting on me and fuming. He ended up being very mad at me and calling me a name. All because of a change in the time and a change in his set routine.
It seems like such a small thing to us, but to a person with autism these changes are very difficult. It doesn’t really excuse Aaron’s behavior but it does explain it. Words don’t speak to Aaron at a time like this. They only make him angrier. So from Mom he got a cold shoulder, and by the afternoon he was wanting to put his arm around my shoulders and talk my ear off. He was sorry, though he never said the words.
He happily came in the kitchen that evening with the clothes pins that we use on chip bags pinned on his ears. Things were back to normal, if you would call that normal. We do. But one thing wasn’t right. Aaron’s weather station clock beside his desk had not changed to the new time. He asked me if I would set it for him, but I told him that I didn’t know how to set that clock. I had not learned yet how to do that, I told him.
Soon he was coming back down to the kitchen with a further report on the clock. Up he went to his room, only to return a few minutes later. “Mom, do you want to learn now?” he hopefully asked me. I gingerly told him that it could wait, and he accepted that…….only to come down soon after that.
“Mom, it’s 6:58,” he informed me, knowing that it was really 7:58. Soon the next update came.
“Mom, it’s 7:02,” he said.
Oh, Aaron. He listened, though, as we told him to not get in a tizzy. And later he was able to go to bed with great relief after Gary corrected the time on the clock. Aaron’s world was finally in order, all the clocks and his wrist watch were in agreement, and this crazy changing time business was over!
Until this fall, when we will go through it all again.
I bet if some of these lawmakers had to live with Aaron, they’d stop all this silliness right away. Now there’s an idea!