P o n d e r i n g s

. . . on Rituals

Everyone has need for daily routines. Just imagine how hectic life would be without those daily routines, if you had to decide every morning how to get out of bed, what to eat breakfast, and so forth. Indeed, our lives are filled with enough stress as it is, without making it exponentially more so with ever-constant change. But this need for order is especially important to individuals with autism.

That rigidity is a major trait in autism has been known for a long time. one of the implications is that autistic children living in a chaotic world, as everyone does, must find ways to impose a sense of order or compensate for this changing environment. Rituals accomplish that, especially during the developing years. Rituals also help soothe the spirit after a long day of sensory frustration. People talking loudly, as well as simultaneously. Horns blowing. The sun shining too brightly. The list of frustrations an autistic feels on a daily basis can go on and on.

I especially had a lot of rituals throughout my adolescence. My obsessions with routine and rituals increased during my early teens, due to my increasing sense of chaos in my life. During meals, I ate in "rounds;" that is, I would take one bite of everything on my plate, then start again. If I disliked an item on the tray, I simply removed it. Since it no longer belonged with my meal, I felt no obligation to eat it just to maintain the sense of order that my psyche required. My drinks had to be placed on the tray so that they could be included in the meal.

Some of my rituals were common, such as not stepping on cracks in the sidewalk. But I also felt compelled to tap my teeth together a certain number of times and in a certain manner. Or tap my thumbs with my forefinger in perfect geometric patterns.

Another ritual involved the way I walked the half-mile home from the bus stop. I had a compulsion to walk with my right foot on the road and my left foot on the grass. Any deviation from this and I had to walk it over. Also, I could not enter a bathtub without first rubbing my feet three times each. At the front door, I would knock three times, turn around three times, and shuffle my feet three times before entering. At school, I had to go to my desk, shuffle my books, go touch the teacher's desk, then return to take my seat.

Even now, I am obsessed with the numbers three, nine and twenty- seven. Since twenty-seven is three cubed, I both cherish and fear it. The most visible expression of the number 27 is on the calendar. I am wary of the twenty-seventh of each month, and especially the twenty- seventh day of the ninth month, or September 27. Both good and bad luck seem to happen to me on that day, year after year.

If you're interested in ordering my book "A Reason for Hope", or have any questions about autism, email me at . Thank you for visiting my page.

More Ponderings on:
  • New Year Resolutions
  • Rituals
  • Sensory Integration
  • Sensory Overload, #1
  • Sensory Overload, #2
  • Why I Chose To Speak Out
  • Working Together

  • * "A Reason for Hope: Insights into Autism" by Daniel R. Hawthorne, copyrighted 2007. "Child of the Forest" by Daniel R. Hawthorne, copyrighted 2004.

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