This is perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of my sons condition, for me. The need to perform certain rituals before a number of tasks are carried out. This could be a consequence of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder which sometimes goes hand in hand with autism. Autism Spectrum Disorder is an umbrella term used to encompass a wide range of conditions with various symptoms. One symptom is OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). This condition alone presents many challenges for the individual. Some may be aware of their condition and others may not, however I think its important for us as neuro typical people to understand that this need for rituals is very real for the individual, and they simply must perform them in order to self soothe and cope.
The rituals my son performs have tended to remain the same for quite some time now. Every night before he goes to sleep I read him a book that he has chosen. We love reading together but he has now decided that he must sniff each page before I turn to the next one. This is probably not much of an issue in itself except he keeps head butting my finger nails and now has a scratch mark on his cheek as a result. I understand him, the pages of books do smell lovely!
Before he goes to sleep he will ask me the same questions and I have to answer them, before he will sleep. Sometimes I only need to say the answers in succession and this is enough for him. The questions are usually will he see me and his dad in his dream, am I going to cuddle and kiss him and will that be today. Once I have answered yes to these questions he will settle to sleep, after telling me he loves me numerous times. Its actually quite beautiful.
When he has finished brushing his teeth, I have to smell his breath three times and tell him its beautiful and then he is happy. I also understand this as we all like to know we have acceptable smelling breath before we leave the house , right ? When travelling by car he tells me when his seat belt is fastened and I must say well done and look at him when I say it, and at the moment, we must play the same song in the car when we travel, currently a song by Adele. He is actually very musical and knows a lot of lyrics to a lot of songs. His memory is amazing and I remember when he was very young, he would struggle to ask for anything he wanted however he knew every single word to “zoom, zoom , zoom, we’re going to the moon”.
” Reality to an autistic person is a confusing, interacting mass of events, people, places, sounds and sights…set routines, times, particular routes and rituals all help to get order into an unbearably chaotic life. Trying to keep everything the same reduces some of the terrible fear”