I’m making some progress in the creating a new routine department and I’m pretty proud of myself. Actually, I’m proud of my kids as well because they’re slowly adjusting.
We’re on day 143 or 144 of COVID19 lockdown and yes, it’s a lockdown. We have been to the park a handful of times and spend time in our yard when it’s safe, we are otherwise locked down. I’m following CDC guidelines for people at high risk. It’s not a difficult concept folks. That’s directed at the trolls who complain about my use of the word lockdown.
One of my biggest challenges since schools shutdown has been establishing a routine. That’s not an easy thing to do with autistic kiddos.
The kids and I were still getting our footing after the unexpected end of my marriage when all of this shit happened. My focus at that time was just riding the wave as best we could and simply surviving to fight another day.
When an autistic child is thrown off a routine it can result in chaos. In my case, it was chaos x3.
Adapting to all the changes took a great deal of time. By the time they had adapted, I was completely drained and struggling with my own depression. For a while it was purely survival mode for me and every single battle had to carefully be picked, so as not to overextend myself.
That’s not ideal by any stretch of the imagination but it was the reality of our lives at that time. It’s important to understand that building a new routine for an autistic child requires a great deal of commitment. The amount of time, energy, patience and consistency that can go into this undertaking can be mind-boggling. I have the added challenge of three kids with varying needs and routines. That’s a fucking monumental challenge.
I knew that I needed to get myself back on track before taking anything like this on because to do so otherwise would simply add to the chaos. I was really having to pick my battles carefully during this time and frankly, I still am.
My goal for a routine has been to try my best to build one that accommodates most of everyones individual needs. In other words, one routine is hard enough, trying to build three was probably not going to happen and I needed to be honest with myself about that.
Basically, I needed to pick a place to start. It made sense to focus on a a small number of things at a time. I decided to to deal with their wonky sleep schedules first because without that, nothing else is going to matter much.
I know my kids and sudden changes will be met with extreme resistance. Any changes would need to be gradual and build on each other. They would need to know the changes were coming well in advance and I needed to have realistic expectations. In other words, I need to remember that this is going to be a process.
Gavin’s going through a period of decompensation, so I needed to focus on the basics with him. Currently, I have him on a very basic schedule where he really focuses on hygiene related things. That’s a common struggle for autistic kids and Gavin is no exception.
It’s been a great deal of trial and error, mixed with constant repetition, but it’s slowly working.
Gavin is on a relatively functional routine during the day. It’s only been a couple of weeks, but he’s doing pretty damn good as far as I’m concerned. He’s brushing his teeth, shaving, showering, managing his eczema and his predosed medications with minimal reminders. Those are really important parts of his life. I have printed and laminated checklists for him to help visually prompt him when needed.
Elliott and Emmett are a bit more challenging but making progress as well. I’ll just focus on the common routine goals for now because it’s getting late and I’m trying to maintain my own routine.
My goal is to get them into a healthy sleep cycle. They’re experiencing significant sleep disturbances. Elliott struggles to fall sleep and Emmett has refused to sleep in his own room since his mom moved out almost a year ago. These challenges have been compounded by COVID19. They’re both anxious and that impacts every aspect of their lives, especially sleep.
I’m working to help them get to bed at a more reasonable time. It’s a process and simply changing their bedtime abruptly is counterproductive. Like many things in life, small changes can lead to bigger ones. I’m also slowly adding weekly responsibilities that are common in most households but historically a struggle in mine.
One of the things I’ve talked about quite a bit recently is wearing masks. My kids all have sensory issues and masks are not fun for them. It took practice and several different styles of masks before I found success but it can still be a struggle. This was really important because as of the time of writing, we’re drowning in COVID-19.
We’ve been practicing laundry and both boys can now do their own laundry, start to finish. It’s not necessarily pretty but it’s progress. Everyone is washing their own dishes during the day and cleaning up after themselves, for the most part. Again, I’m looking for progress not perfection.
Gavin has somewhat mastered doing his own laundry already and has actually been helping teach his brothers. I thought that was cool.
I know these are all things that kids their age might already be doing but as an autism family, we run on delays quite often.
One of my big concerns is making the adjustment to distance learning. The schedule is flexible but it’s 27 hours a week. This change isn’t going to be easy or wanted and I can’t to wait until the last minute to have a routine or at least the foundation from which to build a routine, in place.
Like I said, it’s tough for a million reasons. I’m burnt out, but really trying to get myself back on my feet. I don’t always have the energy or emotional resources left to pick all the battles a better parent might. I feel like we’re drifting at times and I don’t want that.
Ultimately, I’d be happy to have a routine that almost works most of the time.
What have you guys been dealing with as far as routine changes are concerned?