Autism, Routine & Order

It is pouring rain. Has been on and off for days. In a bit I have to take Charlie to acupuncture and run into the store for eggs. Well, walk into the store for eggs.

I can’t believe I went in for eggs a week ago but came out with everything but eggs. Well, yes I can.

The Importance Of Routine:

Because I asked someone who worked there where they’d moved the pimento cheese and he took me to it. It was on past the eggs. So I forgot to go back and retrace my steps.

When I go into the store, I walk down the rows in a certain order. Fresh fruit/vegetables in the produce aisle. Then turn left and there’s the eggs.

Move on down a few feet and there’s the yogurt, which I always seem to need. Then on down is the coffee creamer and almond milk.

Disrupt my routine and I’m “off.”

Same with my routine at home. I follow a pretty rigid routine because that’s reassuring to me. Because I like things in a certain order and so I rarely vary that routine.

It’s An Autism/Asperger’s Thing:

People with Autism/Asperger’s need that. For things to be in order.

The world is disruptive enough and that routine is calming and gives you a map of what to do when.

An Instance When One Thing Was Said & I Heard Different:

One day Kasi called me to come over to get her after she’d had her first wrist surgery and before she could drive again.

I was taking her lunch, but she called me early because her husband had forgotten to give Andrew his medication before he went to daycare. So she needed me to come early, she said.

Well, I hadn’t written my post for the day yet. So I started to write it, because to me come early was a fluid concept. She didn’t say how early.

You have to be concrete with me because I don’t operate well in the gray areas.

Realizing My Mistake:

When I called to tell her I had finished writing my post and was on my way, she was more insistent. Bordering on anxious.

I said “Why didn’t you say immediately? Not early?”

What she said made sense then. But it wasn’t how my brain heard it at the time.

So then I felt bad and went racing across town the 10 miles to their house and screeched into the driveway.

Andrew got his medication.

The Wrong Or Right House Instance:

Then there was the other time I was taking lunch to her several weeks earlier. I had not been to their house in probably four years. She always comes here, as I live in the middle of town and am close to things.

I drove past their house that day I don’t know how many times. Because I thought I remembered where they lived. But something was off.

I drove and drove around and kept coming back to it. But no, somehow I was sure this couldn’t be the same house.

Naturally my cell phone battery had run down. So I had to drive all the way home with her favorite now cooling Chinese food to call her.

What I Saw In My Mind:

Seems I had been to the right house all along. The difference was that the Japanese Maple had grown over the sidewalk and the other landscaping had grown a lot in four years.

She asked me why didn’t I just come to the door anyway.

In my mind that couldn’t be the right house because it wasn’t the house I saw in my mind. I had not allowed for the landscaping being overgrown.

And I don’t like to go to strange people’s doors. That means having to talk to them.

If you know someone on the autism spectrum then none of this is new to you. They tend to have certain patterns and rituals. Order is what sustains them; keeps them functioning.

Frustrating for everyone else, yes. But maintaining a certain routine is what works best for them.


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  1. Nice read, I just passed this onto a colleague who was doing a little research on that. And he actually bought me lunch since I found it for him smile So let me rephrase that: Thank you for lunch!

  2. THESE days, walking through a store in some order can be helpful to lower stress from all else of the craziness going on when shopping now. So I am not sure that part has to do with autism or not…maybe it is getting older. I never used to need a list…now it is a must and even then I might forget something…even when crossing off items I have picked up…well, it would be a great help if one could FIND what was needed…some remain on the list due to the store NOT having them that trip (and they want us to stay home more…pray tell how those of us with allergies and certain needs are always supposed to be able to find substitutes??)

  3. I have a routine also, and as some have said I think it is my OCD. If my routine is disrupted I can hardly function! My son and his family are coming from out of state to visit and I have been obsessing over it since he said they were coming !

  4. While I don’t consider myself as having autism or anything like that, I find my life to be much more tranquil and serene when I have order and routine in my life. I may do many different things during each day, but I’m a list maker, I am almost always on time or early for appointments and feel so much better when I can move from project to project without interruptions and chaos. I once read a book, “Thriving on chaos” and I regretted ever buying the book and reading it. Just a ridiculous premise!!!

    I used to be so multifunctional in my job and was so proud of it. Crazy. NOW I love the focus of one thing at a time. Much more quality in the process and the result.

  5. Most of this is familiar but like someone else wrote it’s more of an OCD type thing at home with me.
    I always seem to “lose it” when a fairly common store layout gets changed…Walmart is fairly guilty of this,lol.
    The organization and routine idea makes me sad, my 10 year old granddaughter is on “the spectrum and her home life is anything but the above,there’s no set bedtime and everything seems totally chaotic to me, no doubt it’s not helping her in anyway.

    1. I feel for her. She could be the exception, but I’ve learned that most on the spectrum really need that routine to keep from being anxious.

  6. Good morning Brenda, I am not autistic but I love routine, as you say in a world that is as it is it is nice to have something like a routine that you can count on.

    I hope that you have a wonderful and relaxing day!

  7. Why do you not have a car charger? It would solve that problems for you. I know you hate cell phones but you may have an emergency and really need it.

    1. I had one of those chargers but it wasn’t working for some reason. That or the phone had just gone bad. However since then I have bought an iPhone as that’s what my daughters use and am trying to be part of this century because everything is geared to cell phones these days. I have both of them in emergency contacts too. I am trying not to hate cell phones so much but I won’t have noises coming at me like I know my daughters do every time there’s a notification.

  8. I wouldn’t be surprised if I had something like autism. I like routine but can’t follow it as I have a retarded daughter who is constant change. But I have had problems similar to yours over the years. Lately it has been appointments. I hate going to them because I have to be just right about the timing to get there just right. and I hate it. I am a military brat and being on time is paramount.

    1. Yes, I must be on time. Time is important. I resent it when people are late. Rules are important to me. This morning at the store I let a man with a child know that he was going down the grocery store aisle in the wrong direction. He was going against the arrow on the floor. He was going right past a worker stocking the shelves and I said it as much for her as for me. He said he didn’t think it mattered, which really bothered me. Why are people so selfish? After he got a few feet away, the woman working there said to me: “It matters to me.” I made sure to tell the woman working the door and the check out guy what had occurred. Not that they can do anything. But it made me feel better.

  9. I a, not autistic, but have taught manny autistic kids. For the grocery. I try to make a list. I make the list in the order I go first. I stop and check the list as I go, and at the end. Sometimes I miss an item or two and go back. But going over the list at the end usually prevents missing items. Now of course, I don’t go inside stores
    I use curbside in an effort to social distance.

      1. I don’t know, as I’ve not been in grocery stores since covid began. I use curbside to protect myself. But, I would follow the arrows andbcheck my list in each area.

  10. Routine and order works for me too, but OCD is the reason I like things a certain way. My pet peeve is when my favorite grocery store, switches up items on aisles. It takes me a little longer to get accustomed to certain changes.
    P.S. I seem to forget an item or two while grocery shopping too, even with a list!

    1. I know. I hate that too. Andrew, my 6 year old grandson, has already been diagnosed with ADHD and is on medication because his teacher last year called my daughter and her husband in and told them he needed to be checked. He now has play therapy and the therapist told them to get him tested for autism, which is happening tomorrow.

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