Living with a person who is on the Autism spectrum means adapting to some pretty quirky behaviors. These behaviors are different for every person, family and sometimes even situations. Some behaviors need to be corrected immediately, others are pretty inocuuous. In our house, we have developed some rules that we live by every day. Failure to not comply with these rules can lead to anything ranging from sheer fun, a long and drawn-out meltdown or (heaven forbid) something catastrophic as Joel is almost completely unaware that he is not indestructible.
I broke the first rule about making sure all the doors are locked this afternoon and Joel got into the bathroom and started the bath. If I didn’t let him take a bath, there would have been a huge meltdown. So, while I was sitting next to the tub intermittently squirting shaving cream onto his outstretched hand, I wrote out this list. I am seriously considering printing it out in bold lettering and tacking it on the wall for everyone to see.
Our Thirteen Commandments
1. Thou shall check all door locks (this includes bedroom, bathroom, cabinets, refrigerator, closets, drawers, door leading to the garage and the front door).
2. Thou shall use a quiet, indoor voice. (This is very difficult as we are all a bunch of loud talkers.)
3. Thou shall not interfere with Joel’s piles of stuff in his presence.
4. Thou shall not sing to Joel-EVER.
5. Thou shall not put silverware back into the silverware drawer in Joel’s presence.
(Seriously, if you make the mistake of breaking commandments 3, 4 and 5, you probably will get hurt. He does not tolerate these things and will have a meltdown, jump at you like a pro-wrestler, pinch you, bite you, whatever. It isn’t pretty. We have learned the hard way.)
6. Thou shall keep the kitchen stocked with popsicles, sliced cheese, sour cream and cereal.
7. Thou shall learn to deal with nude gymnastics at all times of the day.
8. Thou shall forfeit your blanket if Joel wants it, even if you are in the process of using it. (Cold? Go put on a sweater.)
9. Thou shall not use the computer chair for its intended purpose. It is for spinning.
10. Thou shall fast-forward past all the “boring” parts of Sesame Street episodes (the first 20 minutes) and go directly to the Count or Elmo’s World.
11. Thou shall keep all books, magazines, mail and any other paper put away or at least out of reach unless you want them to be torn to shreds. (Joel does not descriminate between the electric bill or your expensive college textbook.)
12. Thou shall keep all drawing materials, crayons, pens, pencils, markers, etc put away unless you want some modern art on the walls or furniture.
13. No small objects are to be left out as Joel puts everything into his mouth. EVERYTHING.
So, those are just some of the rules we live by here at Casa Our House. I’m sure other families on the spectrum have their own list of rules of this nature. It may seem easy for those not living on the spectrum to say, “That’s crazy. You need to control that child.” And, while I probably would have shared your opinion years ago, I can safely say, it isn’t as easy as that. Believe me, we work with Joel every day at home to follow some kind of normal routine and when he is at school, he has trained professionals extending that kind of learning. It will take years and some of these things will be with us possibly all of his life. He is a work in progress as are we all.