There she is, all decked out for picture day in leopard ears, of course, with her best pal and service dog extraordinaire, Oakley by her side. I know you love her. Her antics have been funny and silly and even a little heartbreaking, at times. We love her, too, obviously.
So, when I take you down this road I want you to remember that as frustrated as I get with her difficulty making transitions, I am never frustrated with her. She is, as usual, navigating a system meant to confuse her and she's doing the very best she can. Having said that, let's explore shall we, the issues of transitions and why they are so goddamn hard.
If you're new to us, and I doubt that very much as our following has been a loyal group, you may not know what I mean when I say 'transitions'. Don't fret, this isn't one of those you'll have dig out the ol' Merriam Webster for, this word simple means, changing from one activity to another. Here are few examples:
Leaving your beloved dog to have a bath
Leaving your beloved bath to brush your teeth
Leaving your beloved bathroom mirror to read a book
Leaving your beloved book for the prospect of sleep
Leaving your beloved bed for the prospect of anything
Do you see what I mean?
Change is hard. So, Very, Hard. Argh!
Which make asking her to change, So, Very, Hard. Argh!
There are times that preferred activities make it easier, but for the most part. Kate, and many like her, do not like to make changes, period.
If you suggest this is a 'behavior' that can be extinguished via therapy, social story, threat or worst of all a fucking sticker chart, you'd be wrong and also, say it to my face.
If, like me, you are mostly lost for ways to make transitions easier, you're probably in the right place. Not because I am going to tell you how to make them easier, but because I will always have a glass of wine with you and I will sometimes even listen.
Now, back to Transitions and their shittyness.
Here's what I think I Know: (notice my language here? I've been on the business end of far too many harshly-worded emails and comments about how very little I actually do know, to make any declarations)
Transitions are hard because:
Shifting Attention is Difficult:
It can be very challenging to shift the attention of a deeply focused person on the spectrum. This could be considered a good thing in many cases, (see pro-athletes) but when you're trying to get out the door to school, it's less useful.
De-engaging and Re-engaging are Problematic:
The fact remains that autistic brains are forever attempting to make sense of strange world, and once they have engaged, they can feel a sense of peace or calm in a brain that is often very busy (or so I am told by persons on the spectrum). Leaving the peaceful, calming activity and trying to re-enter 'that zone' so to speak, at a later date with new stimulus attached can be futile and sometimes painful.
Making Predictions is Nearly Impossible:
Just because the bath routine has been the same each evening for past eleventy bazillion days, that does not mean that it will be today and certainly may not feel the same. Other stimulus may have entered the brain making it difficult understand or enjoy the bath routine. It may seem unpredictable which is very frightening, at times. Moreover, if the day was particular busy they may simply not have enough tokens left after a long day of 'spending them socially'* to participate in a bath.
So, as usually, I've offered little in the form of helpful advice but at least we chatted, right? And I am serious about that glass of wine.
*We refer to Kate's energy for a given day as tokens. We may have stolen this directly from someone, but we can't remember, so for the sake of this post let's just say we made it up. On a regular day, Kate may have about twenty tokens to spend before she enters into meltdown. Most days, this is just fine, but throw in a birthday party, a holiday or even an unpredictable event and she begins to use more tokens than usual leaving her without tokens to finish her day. These days blow.
Grace and Kate's mom. (Shanell)