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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I dread to think what’s next.