They say it takes 21 days to make a new habit stick to one’s routine. When you are autistic and are used to things always being the same and then being uprooted and it being a significant change, it can be difficult to adapt to significant change,
Not to loom on the pandemic, it has been the epicenter of change and I have seen it make or break autistics near and far. The lives we lived for so long were uprooted and as such for the better part of two almost three years now, autistics, just as our neurotypical peers have gone through a host of changes in our lives as the world has too.
When a change occurs that can be significant or unexpected, it can nearly knock the wind out of us and that is when we are prone to our maladaptive behavior taking place. If not properly equipped with the skills we need to have, we can react, meltdown, shutdown, lash out, whatever it is that we are known to cause a negative reaction to ourselves. As we are not at our best, it is not what we want to be known for, but it is what is talked about commonly in our lives.
Learning to do something new, rather if it is a new way that a routine must be followed or the way something is delivered or followed can be quite difficult for many autistics. It takes time for us to adapt to the new way of things, even if everyone across our network has to undergo these changes, we can make it seem as that it is a larger than life event and as such acceptance of the change becomes difficult because we do not see the whole story behind the entire change taking place or the necessity of it happening.
Another concept of why adapting to change can be difficult for autistics is the fact that we strive for perfection when we learn and try to do things. The last thing we as autistic people want to communicate is that we need help, technical assistance, whatever we need to have an issue resolved. One of the hardest things I have to do sometimes is the fact that I need to ask for help with things because I may have made a mistake or am struggling with needing help to do something that I cannot solve on my own.
It makes me at least feel like I am a failure at something. That is part of my “black and white” way of thinking and not being able to see any “gray” in the situation. For me, it either has to be one way or another. There can be no medium, and compromise can be difficult. Seeing that I am in the wrong is another barrier that I experience difficulty in admitting at times for fear of being judged or at fault for making an error. These things can be caused by being disturbed by difficult and compounding changes in the lives of autistics that are more complex to accept and adapt to.
When a drastic change happens, especially when it is difficult and the party is known, I want to quickly rush to judgment and catastrophize about a situation. I want to blame them for uprooting my life because doing something new for me can be difficult to do or creates more anxiety for me when I cannot fathom that many can possibly experience feelings, but not on as big a scale that I am. I know that it is part of the anxiety that I am experiencing in my life and it makes it more difficult to accept and adapt to the change that sometimes people who experience it on a bigger scale that I do have to undergo.
One thing I have learned through my years as an autistic adult and even more in these times of pandemic is that change is evident and ever changing. I know that I have to be more flexible in my life and be willing to work towards being able to accept, prepare and adapt as much as I can using the lifelong skills I have acquired in my life.