Autism and the Accumulation of Routines and…Things

I don’t think it’s any secret people with autism tend to need/like routine.

Annoyingly, it can take a lot of time and effort to build up a routine around, say, cleaning your autistic child’s teeth but other things you don’t want to repeat (bribing them with a biscuit to get them to come in from the garden, for instance…not that I’ve ever done that) seem to immediately become ‘routine’ and something that must always be done because that’s what we do.

This is most evident in Bear’s bedtime routine.

Before going to bed Bear and Tyger give everyone a goodnight kiss.  Generally my sisters are in my parents’ extension so going through to that part of the house is now part of the routine.  Even if everyone is in the main part of the house or nobody else is home at all (excluding me – I don’t actually abandon my toddler and leave him to put himself to bed) Bear still needs to walk through to the extension before bed.

Prior to getting into his cot, Bear also needs to hit the light shade.  One time he was getting a bit upset about going to bed so I lifted him up to the light shade (it has tickly tassel bits and I thought it would make him laugh).  Big mistake.  He now must hit the light shade before going to bed…made more and more difficult the heavier he gets.

I won't even mention the various light shows the cubs need to go to sleep...
I won’t even mention the various light shows the cubs need to go to sleep…

Then there are the things Bear needs in his cot.

Both cubs have always had problems with sleep so when Bear showed a clear attachment to a cuddly dog (Fergus) and he started to insist Fergus came with him when he got up and/or went for a sleep we were actually pretty happy.  We hoped it might bring him comfort and improve his sleep.  If anything, we encouraged his attachment to Fergus and I bought a spare on eBay when I found out the toy had been discontinued ‘just in case’.

Tyger’s first ever ‘special interest’ – as the literature on autism terms it – was vacuum cleaners and he has many Henry Hoover toys.  Not wanting Bear to feel left out I bought him a small cuddly Henry (actually marketed as a screen cleaner) and that became the next beloved possession and, along with Fergus, had to always go to bed with Bear and get up with him in the morning.

Fine.  A couple of toys and one of them pretty small.  Not really a problem.

Don't mention Henry's nose...or lack thereof.
Don’t mention Henry’s nose…or lack thereof.

Then there was the book…

In the run up to Christmas, the boys each got a Christmas book.  Bear got Dear Santa.

A book.  A board book, in fact.

I love reading.  I have always loved reading.  My degree is in English Literature, for frack’s sake, so I very much understand having a love of books.

But I don’t understand taking a book to bed every night.  Not in a ‘I like to read a little before going to sleep’ sort of way but in a ‘I need to have this hard, flat object in my cot with me’ way.  But that – of course – is what Bear has insisted upon since he got the smegging book.

So cuddly.
So cuddly.

Next I decided Bear might sleep better with a small pillow (little babies don’t have pillows).  Since he doesn’t always cope well with change, I let Bear get used to the pillow in the living room before putting it in his cot.

With hindsight, that perhaps wasn’t the best idea.  Bear seemed to like the pillow but figured it was something that lived in the living room (that being where he was first introduced to it) and was only taken to his cot at night or for naps.

Are you keeping up?  We have Fergus, Henry, Dear Santa and the pillow all being dragged back and forth to and from the bedroom every time Bear gets up or goes to bed.

Bear Asleep

Then there was Bing Bong.

Bing Bong is a character from the Disney Pixar film Inside Out and Bear was very…invested in his story line and…concerned for his well-being (I’m trying not to give any spoilers for those three people on the planet who haven’t seen the film) so I got him and Tyger each a Bing Bong toy.  It’s plastic and talks/sings.

You can see where this is going.

I appreciate many people reading this will roll their eyes and proclaim they would not allow their toddler to take a noisy toy to bed.  I would have said the same once upon a time.  Bear has never been a good sleeper, though, and at this point anything that meant he was less likely to scream and scream upon being put in his cot was a bonus.

Poor Bing Bong has actually been relegated now.  He doesn’t always make it to Bear’s cot every night and/or back through to the living room every morning.  If I thought that meant the whole nonsense with the cot stuff would end, I was sadly disappointed because along came: the button.


One thing that can be said for all the other miscellaneous things that Bear insists on having with him every night and taking with him every morning is they’re big enough that we’ve always found them when necessary.

In the last few days, though, Bear has decided he needs to be holding a button in order to get to sleep.

Buttons are small.

Buttons are very small and Bear drops thing.  Often.

After searching and searching Tyger and Bear’s bedroom floor in the dark for a Goram button for the billionth time this week I went on eBay.

One of my less exciting online purchases.
One of my less exciting online purchases.

I dread to think what’s next.



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  1. Wow, you have just described my youngests bedtime!! He also has to go through a very specific routine, or he will scream until he’s purple, and the only way we can get the screaming to stop, is to go back to the beginning, and start the whole process again! He has to get his own milk, and put it in the microwave, and press all the buttons by himself. He has to throw the same number of toys back into the bath from a certain height, before we leave the bathroom, and turn the light on and off a certain number of times before we can go to his bedroom… There’s a whole routine of things, it’s pretty lengthy. Often I sigh, and wish we could cut out a few of the things, but doing them is easier than the screaming! Like you, with the turning off the lights, and throwing toys into the bath-things he needs to be lifted for-I’m finding harder as he’s pretty big for his age anyway!! He also sleeps with a board book! And once he insisted on going to bed with a remote control car (my husband was looking after him, and let him.) but he also let him take the control to bed with him too, and he rolled onto it, and started the car going, and the wheels got caught in his hair… Arrrgh! But if they need a routine, and certain things in bed with them helps them sleep, then we should roll with it!!
    Thanks for sharing with #bigpinklink.


  2. Bless you, our little one has had little comforters in her cot from day one, and I often wondered if people would think I was mad for letting her! I say whatever helps them to feel secure and happy so they can sleep soundly 😉 #bigpinklink


  3. Just discovered your blog through #bigpinklink. I’m think I’m going to enjoy reading your posts. I still feel Autism is a hidden and shied away from topic, its refreshing to read an honest perspective.


  4. Oh dear, what a lot of things to remember to keep track of and then cart around back and forth and into bed each evening. I do hope the list starts to get smaller, or stops growing for you soon! Again, really interesting to read about how autismn can manifest in different children. Thanks for linking up to #MarvMondays. Emily


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