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comfort zones - when to step - out of them
A common theme within the world of autism can be routine, patterns and repetitive behaviours. I have watched Jeorge find comfort in such routines and patterns and also seen him scramble to find one. If he cannot he will create one. The latter happened a lot more when he was younger. Now it seems the coin has been flipped. As his parent I have realised I too have become reliant on such routines and familiarities. Some of those reasons are thinking I am doing the right thing for Jeorge. Sometimes it is fear of upsetting Jeorge so avoiding stress for him. Others it is asking myself the question, 'am I feeling strong enough to cope with trying something new with Jeorge on my own, what if he gets upset or scared, what if people stare and moan? what if I am not able to help him calm? what if he kicks me or headbutts me?'
I realised though that over the years routines have changed, places we visit have changed. That didn't happen without either Jeorge's lead or mine. I was given some really good advice today, so I am sharing it with you all. when trying a new routine or place to visit, we always prepare as much as possible. This involves me giving Jeoge a visual to have something to prepare him for what is being suggested. A photograph is usually the easiest and most helpful tool. I am often alone with Jeorge when we go out during the holidays, again something else I wish to change this year!
So, the advice was to have a selction of phone contacts, so if things do get tricky, and Jeorge may get upset or we need to stop the car for a period of time. Call the selcted friends to give some support. Words and conversations mostly, to alliminate the feeling of having to do it all alone. Building a netowork , a team of support around oneself could be very soothing for me, therefore for Jeorge.
Some skills I myself have learnt along the way, is remembering to be mindful of tiredness physically, emotionally and mentally for both parent and child. In conversations I have had with others on the spectrum many have said even a really happy positive new experience has almost always left them feeling overwelmed and extremely tired. Knowing this means the carer can give the space needed for the time out, to be able to shut down and process or sleep. Or as an adult autistic posted 'going into his parrallel world to enable him to cope with the outside world. The parrallel world may cause some 'odd' behaviours from non autistics point of view, but this part of their ability to calm themselves and make sense of ehat they have experienced is so important.
Having a b plan is helpful too, which can be a place that you know is familiar to them. Having no expectations, letting go of the outcome is a skill I have learnt to have. Sometimes not getting into the building or place of visit, isnt necesarily a disaster. Getting out of the car for Jeorge was once a massive acheivement in a new environment. We still do at times get to a place, manage to get out of the car and into the venue to only stay for 5-10 minutes. While this can be frustrating with the time it took to get there or the money it cost to get in but compared to the expansion of their bravery and williness to at least try this is gold. Nest time could be longer, if after 3 or 4 tries Jeorge still isnt interested I put that place on the back burner and try someting else.
So this year is going to be a year of me stepping out of my comfort zone and encouraging Jeorge to try new places and cafes etc. For he will not know they exist unless I show him with compassion and love. The world is full of amazing people and experiences and I wish for Jeorge to try as many as possible.
Over this coming year I will be posting those outings and the adventures we have....so keep posted...
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