Released On 23rd Sep 2019
Dan's blog: Routine
I’m sure that many of you reading this have some kind of routine established with your children – set times of day when you get them up, have food, get them ready for school (or similar), bath time, bed time, and many other stops along the way. For some of you it may not have even been a conscious choice to set that routine up, it’s simply the natural rhythm that you’ve fallen into.
In our household, routine is king. Everything runs by the book, like clockwork. Every morning you will find me sat at the kitchen table, eating cereal with our toddler. Every evening my wife sits in the nursery singing the same lullabies to get him to sleep. At 10am and 4pm he runs to where the cat’s food is kept, ready to help feed her. If the wrong parent is present, or if something isn’t done to protocol, then there is hell to pay.
Some of you may have already twigged why everything is so structured in our house – my son is autistic. Structure and routine are as essential to him as water and air. While things run to his expectations, he is the happiest child on the planet. But as soon as something doesn’t go to plan, his whole world implodes.
Neither of us share his diagnosis, so we struggle to fully understand the challenges he faces when confronted with things that we take for granted, like switching the brand of nappies he wears, or Mummy taking breakfast duty because I had to leave early for work. There’s also a significant lack of advice out there for raising an autistic child, for two main reasons: mainstream society has only begun to recognise and accept autism in recent years, so ‘professional’ guidance isn’t as widespread; and, more importantly, every case is different in one way or another. Even if we had a manual on how to handle a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder, I can guarantee half the chapters would have been ripped out, there’d be scribbles and amendments across the margins, and we’d still be in a similar boat as we are now.
The only way to understand what my son needs and what’s best for him is to pay attention to what he tries to tell me. For the record, this isn’t an easy thing to do either. At 20 months he’s come along leaps and bounds with his mobility, fine motor skills, and problem solving, but his verbal communication? Non-existent. He babbles incessantly, and you know he’s saying something by his tone, inflections, and facial expressions, but English is definitely not going on his CV just yet.
But in the last year and a half the most important lesson we’ve learnt is to keep his routine as solid and unaffected as possible. If a change is unavoidable, at least we’re prepared for the fall-out and can employ some damage limitation.
And hey, who wants an easy life anyway?
Dan works as a Technical Assistant for a financial institution in the City and has one young son.