HOW THIS WEEK AUTSITIC NICK DEALT WITH A CHANGE TO HIS PLANNED ROUTINE
As regular readers of this blog know last week, I published an article about a food tour that I was meant to be embarking on this Saturday (7th November 2020).
I was really looking forward to it and had booked a support worker and made any other arrangements necessary.
My plans however changed on Thursday the 5th November 2020 when I got an automated email in my inbox, now I momentarily forgot that with automated emails you can’t usually reply to them, but I did and I simply asked them what time did we have to meet up at to register with the other people taking part in this tour of Northbridge, to my amazement I got a response and they said that they meant to contact me to inform me that unfortunately they were cancelling this tour as they hadn’t reached the required number of people to make it worth-while.
To say I was upset was an understatement. I was also very angry. Not with them per say by with the fact that I had put a lot of preparation into making sure that I had planned out what I needed to do strategy wise. I also was now in a place where I had to decide if I was going to cancel the support worker as the tour wasn’t taking place, but I had budgeted for this support person to drive and accompany me on a busy Saturday walking around Northbridge sampling an array of different food.
I can truthfully admit that I handled it the best that I could, but I felt that I could have done a better job. I reverted back to strategies that I knew would work and for the most part they did.
But, what else could I have done in this situation?
Below are 7 ways in which I could have managed my emotions and anxiety with this.
Allow time for the individual to process the change and adjust to the new circumstances. Changes in routine are much more difficult for those with Autism and accepting what seems like a small change to others can take some time for the individual.
Validate their feelings, and that it is ok to feel that way. “I know this is a change in routine/schedule and that makes you worried/scared. That is ok.”
Describe the change, using clear and concrete language. Do not use unnecessary wording. Having the change communicated to them clearly and definitively will help the autistic individual in the process of accepting the change.
Create positive associations with the new change. If the change is that their school is closed for the day, talk about an activity they really enjoy that they can now do instead.
Make time for the individual to engage in self-calming activities such as stimming or deep breathing. Reassure them by reminding them that you are there if they need you.
Make a social story about changes in routine. Social stories are a simple, walkthrough guide to help those with Autism know what to expect from a given situation. By making the situation about change in routine, it will help to prepare them for a range of different schedule changes.
Support the change with visuals such as First and Then. By visually representing the change, and showing what will happen after, it will help to alleviate any further anxiety surrounding the unexpected.
For me I didn’t deal with how I was feeling to well with this. I became very stressed, I reverted back to doing my workouts, or playing words with friends, but this only touched the surface and didn’t help with my feelings around this.
I should have looked at my past blog posts to remember what I’ve done in the past, But I didn’t https://autisticnick.com/2018/08/16/anxiety-in-autistic-adults/
In the end I went out with the support worker, I went to my local shopping centre on a Saturday! (I know the worst place to go to on a weekend for an Autistic person) well for me it is as it feels like I am being intentionally slaughtered with bright lights and music to influence my buying decisions add to that loud PA announcements, the centre teaming with people rushing from one shop to another, and other sounds and it’s a lot to deal with.
But I was prepared this time, I had a list and I stuck to it and I got all my Xmas gifts (I know! It’s not Xmas yet! And Yes, I write the word Xmas! Don’t @ me!) and I came away in the heat of the hot sun unscathed and what was on that Thursday a not so great day turned out to be ok. I had processed all my feelings around this by the Friday, I had worked through and accepted that things like this happen, I can’t control it, it just is what it is, and that it wasn’t the end of the world.
What did I learn from all this? Well, I learned that sometimes changes occur and that whilst I may not have control over things like this happening, I do have control over how I deal with it.
CARRY ON THE CONVERSATION
How do you deal with changes to your routine?
Let me know about your experiences in the comments section below
Thank you for reading and I will see you next time for more thoughts from across the spectrum.