I think most people have seen the film Groundhog Day with Bill Murray. If you haven’t, a large part of the film he is waking up every day and doing the exact same thing every day. He’s stuck. Autism can be similar in that ritual and routine are vital to making the day go smoothly. Stepping outside of the routine requires a good deal of mental preparation for both Seamus and I. So, lets talk about a day in Seamus’ world.
It’s early in the morning. Most of the time the sun hasn’t even had a chance to rise before his little feet hit the carpet. Seamus is a little ninja and will go downstairs unattended. At least he used to. We started balancing toys on his lever style door handle so when he opens his bedroom door toys clatter onto the floor and wake us up. He sneaks into our bedroom hippos tucked under his arm and he unplugs his charged kindle tablet. We can’t figure out why but he calls it home. He then collects either Jeremy or I and we head downstairs. He lands on the couch and wants the kindle turned on. He likes to watch educational videos with colors and shapes. Sometimes he watched videos about Lightning McQueen from the Cars movie. This is followed by breakfast-milk and muffins, a walk-usually downtown or to a coffee shop, play time, lunch, play time, dinner, brushing teeth-always at 6:15pm, bath-always at 6:30pm, and his lengthy bedtime ritual. Seamus isn’t capable of being put in bed while he is still awake. He’s a sensory seeker. He will do everything in his power to stay on his two feet until he falls over. Unfortunately for us that means the more exhausted the faster he moves and the riskier the activities become. So typically before we reach this point we turn off the lights in the living room. Get him his hippos and blankey. Jeremy usually gets him on his lap and holds him in place. As soon as he starts falling asleep he fights to get away. He’s exhausted but he can’t miss anything that could happen around him. Some nights this process is pretty quick and only takes about twenty minutes. There are days that it takes well over an hour to get him to finally drift off. Carrying him up to bed makes you feel like you’re holding nitroglycerin during an earthquake. The slightest wrong move and you’re back downstairs starting the process all over again only now he’s angry and the fifteen minutes of rest just made it so he can be awake for another three hours.
Every day is almost entirely the same. Change is stressful and overwhelming to the point that if we go out and do things that are out of the ordinary he often doesn’t go to sleep until hours after his usual bedtime. Home is his safe zone. His bubble. I’m thankful that he is comfortable and happy here, but I would love for him to explore more of the world. Perhaps in time it will get easier.
I have no idea why he has such a tough guy look on his face.