Change can be difficult

Helen Horn by Helen Horn Additional Needs

Helen Horn

Helen Horn

I am mum to two young men. My eldest son James, who is 27 years old, has a diagnosis of Wolf- Hirschhorn Syndrome and Autism. On my blog I write ab...

Change can be difficult

I guess we all have routines that we follow to a lesser or greater degree. Whether it’s coming downstairs in the morning and flicking on the kettle and getting the washing on whilst waiting for it to boil or leaving for work at the same time each day and stopping to pick up a coffee on the way.

Whilst some people will find routine dull, others will find it comforting, reassuring even. My son James is one of the latter. He has a severe learning disability and autism. As far as we are aware he cannot tell the time and he doesn’t know what day of the week it is. He knows what’s happening by having routines to follow.

James has a busy week

He attends different day services and sees his family. He has a visual schedule which his carers support him with looking at every morning. His schedule shows him what he is doing that day. This helps to reduce his anxiety and therefore his challenging behaviours too.

Many of us can prepare mentally for a change to our routine. We may even look forward to it when we have a day off work or go on holiday. But for those like James, changes to routine can be significant. Change can be anxiety inducing, causing him a great deal of uncertainty so it’s important that we understand and anticipate how it may affect him.

Whilst James’ schedule helps him to understand what the day ahead looks like, it can also support him with pre planned changes. For example, if his day service is closed for a bank holiday, he can be prepared for this by showing him and placing alternative activities on his schedule for the day.

Unfortunately, life isn’t always so predictable.

Unexpected changes can happen that are out of our control and these are more difficult for James to cope with. We may set off for a favourite activity of James’, going out for cake and when we arrive the tearoom is closed and we have to head back to the car. Sudden change like this can be just too overwhelming for James and he doesn’t know how to cope in that situation. He was expecting something to happen and now suddenly it’s not.

There is little we can do for James in that moment except offer reassurance, distraction and hopefully an acceptable alternative to alleviate his distress. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t. Very often those around James who do not know him like we do will not understand his apparent overreaction. At times like this what we need from those onlookers is acceptance and understanding that not everyone can process things in the same way and that for some people like James, the little things in life that we take for granted can be extremely challenging to live with.

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