We have a lot of rituals around our house. It's not all that unusual, as any parent or grandparent (or sibling for that matter) will tell you if there is someone in the family who has autism, rituals often become part and parcel of the way life runs in that home.
Some folks might call paying particular attention to some of the quirky things the kids here -my grandchildren -do, as another means of spoiling them --letting them have their way with respect to some of this stuff.
Maya has obsessions from time to time. We don't usually mention when she has a doctor or dental appointment at the time the appointment is made (which could be six months from now, as you know how doctor appointments go) because if we tell her right when we know her appointment will be, she will obsess over the date. Actually, that means more than likely she will talk -and talk -and then talk till she is virtually blue in the face -about this appointment. It's not because she has a fear of these things because for a child her age, she handles doctor and dental visits quite nicely. Unlike how her aunt would have been, or for that matter, her Grandmother too, she no longer exhibits any signs of fear when she has to see the doctor or the dentist. (My Mom would have to drag me kicking and screaming all the way to any appointment like that!) Kurtis too is fairly calm these days about appointments like these but if we were to tell him a month in advance he's going to see the doctor or dentist on such and such a day, it would be like telling him to look outside and see the sun shining. Not something he really pays any attention to there.
He does have his quirks though -things he is terrified of seeing, of being around. One of them was this fake shark my son had that he hung in the corner near his "bar" in his house and for several months, Kurtis wouldn't go near that area because he was just plain petrified of this fake shark. Eventually, his Dad got him to calm down considerably about this item -mainly by telling him "It's just pretend" and having him tell himself that, over and over again.
It's the same thing too with respect to a Halloween mask that Mandy and I bought about two years ago that is really an ugly old man's face, with a balding head but with long, gray, stringy hair falling from the middle of the back of the head down about to shoulder length of whoever might wear this thing.
Back when we first bought this mask (we got it mainly for my son because it's the kind of thing he would love to prank people with, particularly around Halloween) both the kids were terrified of this mask. Eventually, Maya got over her fear of it but not Kurtis. Even after I moved it to the top rear shelf in one corner of my bedroom where it is not even visible at all, Kurtis was so frightened by that mask that he wouldn't go into my bedroom and for that matter, if my bedroom door would happen to be open and we were trying to get Kurtis to go out the front door (requires passing by my bedroom door) he would scream bloody murder until the door to my room was firmly closed.
Eventually we figured out though why he was so scared of this mask.
Seems his sister knew the mask was in my room -and also, where it was stashed away too -and she took great pleasure in telling her little brother that the mask is the "boogie man" and the "Boogie man" of course, is in Gram's bedroom!
Lately, both the kids have been chattering a lot about the upcoming big event -Halloween -and Maya, especially, has been going on and on about what she's going to be for Trick or Treating as well as for the Halloween parade and party in her class at school. Kurtis has been jabbering about Halloween too, even talking about what he wants to be which for a while was that he was going to be the "Boogie Man." Hmmm. How he figured he'd pull that one off was one for the books since almost all masks tend to do him in with respect to the fear levels.
But tonight, Mandy and the kids had gone shopping in State College for the express purpose of looking for Halloween costumes for both of them. Maya is a happy little clam since she came home with a cheerleader's outfit and she's going to be a Miss America cheerleader in her very patriotic looking red, white and blue skirt and top set!
Kurtis came home happy too with a special hat. A hard-plastic race car driver's helmet type hat! Mandy was half afraid that once she got it home and out of the plastic container holding it, that he would have a hissy fit and not let her put the hat on him but lo and behold, he put it on and was running around the house like a proud little peacock with his race driver's hat!
The kids have their little quirks and obsessions too particularly about food items. New foods do not become part of the staple fare in our house without a whole lot of exposure and coddling, bribery too, to get them to just take a tiny taste and then, if that works, start bit by bit trying to get them to take a bite, chew it and swallow! They will both now -finally -usually eat mashed potatoes but it's still not a guaranteed thing -not like say, Mac'n'cheese is. But if they will accept a helping of mashed potatoes, don't you dare even think about ever putting gravy on top of that -not for either kid!
Sometimes I do wonder if they really are related to me at all, ya know! When I was a kid, mashed potatoes and gravy - and plenty of both -were high on my favorite foods list, for sure!
But you know, when I think back to some of my quirks as a child when it came to food, I realize now that I really was obnoxious and about drove my Mom and my Grandmother too darned near nuts. My main thing at the dinner table was if either of those two women in my life was setting up a plate for me, if they put any item on the plate and it somehow touched something else in the food line, I immediately threw a hissy fit that could rival any meltdown either of my grandkids might decide to pitch! And heaven forbid that they give me a spoonful of lima beans, or a touch of coleslaw and whatever you do, if you were putting jelly on a slice of toast for me, DO NOT give me grape jelly!
Yeah -fixations I had which over time became rituals at the dinner table too.
But, considering the fact that for many, many years now, I have happily accepted helpings of lima beans, coleslaw and love grape jelly, I'm not going to get too hyper over the food rituals of Maya and Kurtis. As long as they eat enough that they aren't going hungry, I figure eventually their ideas about the foods they turn their nose up at now will make their way some day, further down the line, into their stomachs!
Lately though, I've been trying to teach Kurtis to say his prayers when he's all ready to go to bed. I just feel this is important to start him learning about God and faith and prayers and the time is now, in my opinion. (I tried doing this with Maya too but after about a week or two, she flat out refused then -and still does -to learn to say her prayers. (Although I have noticed she watches me with Kurtis very closely as we say his prayers now.
We have the simple little evening prayer -"Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. If I should live for other days, I pray the Lord to guide my ways. Amen!" And when that is finished, we do "God Blesses" where I name as many of the various people who are a part of his life and he repeats that person's name then.
This little ritual is now getting ingrained in him I'm pleased to say. At night now, after his bath and in his pajamas, he will come to me and hops up in my lap, snuggles against my chest and announces to me "I say prayers now."
And so we say them then -together -and he is very content the whole time we do this. Inevitably, immediately after, he either snuggles in a bit more, closes his eyes and poof -like magic -he's off into dreamland or sometimes, he only snuggles with me a couple minutes and then goes over to the sofa and with his special "bear-bear" in hand, curls up in a ball and falls asleep.
Now that's the kind of ritual I really like!