• Understanding Autism from the Inside

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Autism and Dealing with Changes in Routine; The Magic of Obsessions

The Magic of Obsessions

I have been silent for the past week. Why? The answer is two-fold. I do not take change very well, and I was working through a short temporary obsession.

Does anyone else have those? Short-lived obsessions?

Several times per year my husband needs to work a different schedule. Since my Aspie household does not take change well, we need to find ways to cope. His schedule usually M-F, business hours, has changed to work ten days straight with alternating shifts-this happens two to three times per year.

Change a Source of Panic and Anxiety

The schedule change is a source of panic and anxiety for all of us. It is a change in our routine. The children are used to him being home at a certain time, and Aspie Teen in particular, gets bent out of shape when things do not go as they usually do.

I too, do not take the schedule change well. For starters, it means that for ten days straight Mom does not get a break-not for a single second. Some of the days he worked until 10:30 p.m., leaving very early the next morning. I have writing, class work, and papers to complete-all in addition to taking care of the kids.

Without hubby home to do some of the chores, get the boys bathed, in bed, and ready for school the next day, I have very little time to get anything I need or want to accomplish. Every single time we have a schedule change, I need to find ways for us to cope.


Our method: short obsessions/special interests. I am calling them obsessions here because I think my true “special interests” last longer.

During one schedule change, Aspie Teen and I decided to find all the “kids eat free” deals in our area, and eat out every night that hubby was working late. We researched and hit each restaurant to take advantage of the free kid’s meals.

Another time we began watching, The Legend of the Seeker, TV series on Netflix. It was another not-so-short-lived obsession because when I was through with the series, I was compelled to begin reading the books. I am currently finishing up the last book (book 11) in the series.

I am intentionally slowing down now to make this book last longer. I will miss my friends in that book terribly when I am through.

This week’s schedule change brought a similar obsession. We began watching the TV series, Merlin. Can you tell I have a thing for fantasy, and magic?

For the past week, I spent every waking moment watching Merlin. 55 episodes later, and now I have to wait until Friday night for the next episode. Why did I do that? I promise myself that I will not start watching or reading any series that is not already completed. I hate to wait, and need to watch them from beginning to end. We do have a great TV to watch things on together, but I definitely have my eye on something like a VIZIO for when we get round to upgrading it.

But, yes, you did read correctly: in less than one week, Aspie Teen and I have watched 55 episodes-four seasons, and have begun season five, which will be the concluding season of Merlin. I am going to be very sad to see it end.

Short-Lived Obsessions

These short obsessions, as I am going to call them here, have been our coping mechanism-the way we cope with change; the way we get through the days until things return to normal. It is tremendously helpful in warding off the panic and anxiety of change; however, there is a drawback.

Like many of our other obsessions, they are consuming. Nothing has been accomplished during our Merlin marathon week. I have not done any writing, posted to any of my blogs, done any laundry, or opened the mail- nothing. I could not.

I only stopped watching Merlin when I absolutely hate to. I would not have even stopped to eat if I didn’t need to feed the kids-or when they kids themselves starting looking like a tasty snack.

In the past I’ve beat myself up over these short spurts of obsessive behavior-berating myself for being lazy and not doing anything I was supposed to. But now I know how important my method of coping with change and stress is to me; now I can laugh and give myself a break (most of the time) and pick up where I have left off when the obsession comes to an end. In this case, because I am out of episodes!

With no episodes available to watch until Friday night at ten o’clock, I will be getting some writing completed today-I hope.

How do you cope with change? Do you also have short obsessions, or routines that help you ward off the anxiety of change?

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Jeannie Davide-Rivera

Jeannie is an award-winning author, the Answers.com Autism Category Expert, contributes to Autism Parenting Magazine, and the Thinking Person's Guide to Autism. She lives in New York with her husband and four sons, on the autism spectrum.