I despise SpongeBob's annoying cackle blaring from my family room television 24/7 regardless if anyone is in the room or not. It kills me that the kids graze all day and constantly complain that "there is nothing to eat here". This cattle like grazing means we are always out of food, I am constantly taking out the trash (our garbage can is invisible to anyone who has not grown a child in their uterus) and the dishwasher never stops running....ever. I struggle several times a day to maintain my sanity as well as my voice as I constantly yell, "hands off" or "stop fighting" or my all time favorite, "close the freaking door" as the back porch is cooled off by the air conditioning. For kids who wait all school year for summer, it makes my skin crawl to hear them sigh, "I'm bored", which translates to "let's go somewhere and spend money". I think all those child experts who claim children need routine are absolutely right, but children don't need routine nearly as much as good old mom.....unless of course said child has an Autism Spectrum Diagnosis. I'm not sure who will jump for joy higher on August 26th when that school bell rings, Ryan or me.
The grocery store has labeled aisles with everything right where the signs say they should be. The spaghetti is always in aisle 9 and the cereal is in aisle 4 (I just asked him and I'd bet all the donuts in the world he is right). Rarely does the grocery store logistics and routine change and so I learned when shopping with Ryan, my routine better not change either. Once when Ryan was little I skipped aisle 5. I remember this because he screamed, and I mean screamed, "5, 5, 5, 5" until I turned around and went down aisle 5 where Denial was stocking the shelves. I threw a jar of spaghetti sauce at her head. Yes, I should have known then, that skipping aisle 5 should not lead to such an ear splitting melt down, but I assured myself and Denial, that Ryan just really wanted whatever the he** was in aisle 5, regardless if it was the feminine hygiene aisle. You might be wondering, "Well what about the end caps that are always changing with the weekly Bonus Buys or Dollar Deals?". Well, you see dear friend, the end caps always change...they are SUPPOSE to change, so it does not matter what the end cap contains, what matters is that there is not a sign proclaiming spaghetti will be there and it's not. Routine and sameness make my boy so very happy.
In a world that moves too fast, talks too loud and offers little predictability, it's no wonder Ryan loves his weekly pilgrimage to the organized, reliable grocery store. Yes, the donuts and all things sugar are a bonus, but knowing that the things he loves, the things that make him smile, will always be in the same place in the same order, well that's just the icing on the cake, or should I say donut. So for anyone out shopping at our local Giant (sorry Wegmans, your aisles are too scattered and don't flow well and not to mention your donuts "suck") if you can't remember what aisle the ketchup is in, feel free to stop us, because rest assured Ryan will know. And if you just happen to be behind us in Aisle 4 when Ryan spots an empty space where the Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal is suppose to be, plug your ears and shield your children, because there is going to be hell to pay.
Whether your routine is cracking open an ice cold beer after a long day at work, always checking your lipstick in the rear view mirror before exiting your car or grocery shopping on Wednesdays at a highly organized, rarely changing, great donut baking grocery store, some type of routine is important to all of us. And if someone who was unaware of your routine came up and ripped your ice cold beer from your hand or covered your rear view mirror with duct tape, you would go ballistic and rightfully so. As neurotypicals, we don't have to understand or be able to explain the extreme need for routine for kids on the autism spectrum, we only have to accept it. Just like we must accept that summer is winding down and long nights filled with homework, sporting events and endless activities is quickly approaching. Yes, the routine-less summer routine is ending, so grab a donut and your security blanket, because CHANGE is just over the horizon. Lord, help me I hate the C word, but not nearly as much as Ryan.