The books were not what I expected. They were far more helpful than I'd expected, and more nuanced. The author is very honest, and the books are far from all positive---there are many parts of being autistic that he says are very painful. He sounds much like Janey in terms of his verbal speech and his level of independence. That doesn't mean that she is like him, any more than I'm like others who speak at my level, but it's a chance to get a glimpse into the mind of someone with more insight into Janey's mind than most.
I won't go over everything about the books---you can read them if you want to. But what I want to talk about is what I learned about autistic routines, both from the books and from applying what I read to what I've seen in Janey.
Higashida explains (and I'm paraphrasing here) that routines are not really a positive or negative thing. It's not that they bring him pleasure or make him upset. It's more than they simply MUST be done. They are like breathing or eating. Once something is established as a routine, it feels essential to follow the routine. If someone tries to prevent this, it's extremely upsetting---again, not because he enjoys the routine so much, but because it feels like something vital is being stopped.
From this, I thought about how routines get established. We establish routines all the time, often without realizing it. For example, if Janey goes onto the bed and wets it during the day, our next part in the routine is to get upset, to remind her we always go in the potty, and to change the bed. By following our parts of the routine, we further set it in place. I can see how that goes. If Janey feels the need to urinate, she starts her part of the routine---go to the bed. We follow our parts---get upset, remind her, change the bed. The routine to her isn't what it is to us. She doesn't see it as "IF I wet the bed, THEN they will get all upset, SO I shouldn't wet the bed" She sees it as a series of events that are linked.
|Getting ice cream---one of the happy branches of the routine!|
It's my parts of the routine that I can change. Much of the routine for her is reactions to things I do. It's FAR easier for me to change the things I do to get the reactions I want from her than it is for her to change her routine. I think this is where I often used to get tripped up, and where things like ABA don't really take into consideration how the mind of someone with autism works. We think in terms of actions being modified by feelings. If someone reacts angrily, or someone gives you a treat that makes you happy, we assume that will change the next step. We think of thoughts like this... "Mama waited to put on the video because she was busy, and when I screamed, she said she wasn't putting it on because I was screaming, so next time, I won't scream" But Janey thinks (I believe) more like "First I ask for a video. Then Mama says not right now. Then I scream. Then I wait a little more. Then later Mama puts on the video" Janey's screaming is part of the routine. But if I am available to put on the video right way, I switch Janey to a new routine, a branch in the other one, one where she happily watches a video and I don't have to hear screaming.
So much of what has worked over the past few easier years has come about by what many would probably see as us "giving in" to Janey. What I think people who see it that way don't get is that we ALL are much happier. Why is "giving in" seen as bad? I think it's because we again don't think the way Janey thinks. We think of someone more typical, someone who might think like "So if I make a fuss, I get what I want. I need to use that!" Janey doesn't think that way. She doesn't generalize that way. She thinks in terms of the sequence. The sequence can include screaming or not, but it's not a cause and effect in her mind.
I might not be explaining this as well as I wish I could, but in my mind, it's been a bit of a breakthrough. Higashida explains routines much better than I do. And I very much appreciate how hard it was for him to write the books, and I thank him for doing so. His insight is going to make at least a few lives, those of our family, easier and happier.