Saturday, March 14, 2009


One of my favorite bloggers, mama mara did a post about rituals. She asked us to blog about our childrens rituals and what we do to "enable" them. I'm not so sure about the enabling part. I take issue with that, a bit. I guess it depends on many factors. So I will let you all be the judge if I'm enabling or not. . . I'll list what I can think of at this moment. I'm SURE I'll miss some of them.

1. Jack in the Box This is one of my favorite rituals. At 7:00 pm Daniel goes to his room and "does the jack in the box one time". He turns the handle through one song until it pops, puts the lid down and that's it. He got a watch this fall which is helpful. I've mentioned before that he has an INSANE sense of time and forgets nothing. Ever. So about 6:57 he'll start checking his watch. I will basically ignore it if we are doing homework together then at 7:00 he'll say, "I need to do the jack in the box." I sometimes stretch it out if we are almost done with the homework. He gets anxious but does not have a complete meltdown. We mess around with these things a bit to try to give him more flexibility and it has worked. By mess around I mean, we stretch things out here and there and I think it has made him a lot more flexible. If we have a lot of homework left to do I'll send him to go "do the jack in the box" and come back. It literally takes a minute and a half, maximum. It doesn't bother me. If it is going to get him to focus on the rest of his homework, who cares? The good thing is if we are not home, he doesn't worry about it. He'll just do it when he gets home. I don't bring it on vacation. We have gotten it to the point that it's a ritual WHEN HE'S HOME. I think that's perfectly acceptable.

2. The Elevator On Thursdays after swimming (with Darling Nikki this semester) he comes out of the locker room to the lobby where I'm waiting. Then we get in the elevator and go up to the second floor. When we are in the elevator he says, "Starting at one and going up". "One, one floor, Two, two floors I love it ha ha ha" (for those of you that recognize this it is the Count from Sesame Street) The door opens, he presses one, the door closes and he says, "Starting at 2 and going down". We do it every time. It drives my husband nuts. Mind you, he isn't there. It just bugs him that I do it. My opinion is, who cares! It's once a week, maybe 5 - 6 months a year. It makes him happy, he really doesn't ask for much. Well. . . he does do this at speech on Mondays now too. We changed locations and there is an elevator. I don't think Todd realizes this (shhhhh don't tell him) Since he has never once gone to speech it will be my secret. We take the stairs down to speech, elevator up. The stairs down was my compromise, so we didn't have to do the routine both ways. He readily accepted this. If we are out somewhere see an elevator and we don't have to take it, I tell him no. He's fine with that. Is this enabling?

3. . The bedtime routine: read, fill out job chart, write in his feeling journal, take Meletonin, sip of drink, use bathroom, brush teeth, close curtains, turn on air purifier, turn on night light, turn off light, take off glasses, have Fantasia Mickey mouse do a flip into bed. Say the good night script with myself or dad (it is different for each of us). I don't believe this is ritualistic in a negative way. Don't you do the same thing before bed every night? I do. (not the same as Daniel, my own routine) Is that weird?

4. Morning: Go to bathroom, eat breakfast, go online, bring dishes to sink, brush teeth, go get dressed when I go to bus stop with Zachary, undress, get into bed (naked), lay there (not sure what else and I don't want to know) get dressed, make bed (YES I SAID MAKE BED, yea for me) come downstairs, watch video for 15 minutes, go to school. Again, if we were late, it would disturb him. A teacher consultant at school suggest we have a "hurry up schedule" which is an excellent idea. I have not yet done this and frankly if we are late some day, I'll let him do his schedule and get to school late. Which would be upsetting too. So maybe we do need a "hurry up" schedule. Because I guarantee he isn't leaving the house without making his bed.

5. Lunch: He eats the exact same lunch every single day, without fail. I can't remember when he's had a different lunch. But if we are out somewhere he will eat Mc Donald's or something without complaining. And if we are at home it is the exact same time every day.

6. Snack. When he is home he has the same snack twice a day. Once in the morning and once in the afternoon. He gets this himself. Part of the snack includes 10 saltines. 10. It is his favorite number, which I totally understand. It is a perfectly round number. It was my jersey number when I played softball, as my choice. I always liked the number too. So 10 saltines are counted out onto a plate, twice a day, I'm embarrased to say the a poptart goes with it. When he's at school he has animal crackers for snack. At home he absolutely will not ever eat an animal cracker. Isn't that weird?

The rituals are somewhat situational. I don't know if I just made that up , but if we are home or he is at school he'll do them. If we are on vacation he doesn't have to. He let's a lot of it go. He'll do his bedtime routine but I don't feel it interferes with our lives, which, to me, is when enabling comes in. Ok internet? What do you think? Am I enabling him? Are his rituals stopping him in some way? I honestly wouldn't have thought there were so many rituals when I started writing this. I anxiously await your thoughts.


Jodi said...

As always, I *love* reading your blog. It is not only well-written, but very interesting. Here's my take on your question/blog....I believe most well-adjusted children have routines and structure. Many of the examples you have given resonate with me and our family. Maybe not the same level - or exactly the same - but we do have bedtime routines (some may say rituals), weeknight evening routines, and morning routines.

I think the most important (and impressive part) is that Daniel has learned contextualization (different environments have different routines), and flexibility.

I also DEFINITELY DO NOT think you are enabling. Here is the definition of enabling as it relates to addiction):
" Enabling refers to the process by which family members, such as partners, parent and children, "enable" an addicted person to continue in their addiction, by failing to set appropriate boundaries, failing to recognize the problem, providing money etc."
You are doing the opposite in my opinion. You are providing boundaries, encouraging flexibility, and acknowledging the need for routines, but not letting them run your life. I have to say, I know some parents with kids NOT on the spectrum that enable their kids - and not for the better.

So - as always - congrats Michelle on a job well done. I can only imagine how challenging it can be - and you face it head on with courage, conviction and commitment EVERY SINGLE DAY! :-)

Michelle S. said...

Jodi, you are becoming one of my best cheerleaders. :) thanks girl.

Tanya @ Teenautism said...

Daniel shows good flexibility in not having to do certain things when he's away from home, which is great. He's also flexible about the elevator ritual, and in encouraging his flexibility, I think that you're not enabling.

P.S. The Count is awesome! I love the Count, and I'm going to start doing your elevator ritual too! :) "hahaha" (cue thunder roll)

Mama Mara said...

Color me jealous! You are such a NERD, my friend. As you may recall, my enabling involved watching the time for my son, and telling him when it was the magical 7:27. I also began to avoid leaving the house after 7:00 at night, since that would interfere with his ritual. That is enabling -- in other words, becoming a co-participant in the ritual.

Again, as I said in my post, rituals in moderation are not a problem. The problem is when I become so involved in maintaining a ritual that it becomes more entrenched and disruptive to family life than would have occurred without my involvement.

Excellent post!

rainbowmummy said...

Congratulations on the win!!

This was a lovely post! I love how he does things and your like "it takes a minute" "it's once a week". It was a very calming read whilst giving me a kick up the backside to remind me to chill the f out!! Thanks x

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