Negative Response to a Disruption of Routine

A child that has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD or autism) will find it very difficult to make sense of the world. Because of this, and also because of problems with understanding other people and interacting with them, it is very important that the child has order, structure, and predictability in his surroundings and environment. These things enable the child to feel much safer and secure in what the he perceives as an ever-changing world.

 A child with autism will become very attached to familiar routines and will follow those routines very precisely; for example, the child will follow an exact route to and from school, or at mealtimes a child will want other family members to be seated in exactly the same places every day and at set times. Many of these routines can be very disruptive to normal family life.

 If there is a sudden change in routine, or if a routine is disrupted, this can have a very negative effect on the child's behavior. Because of the way children with autism process information, any negative responses and deterioration in behaviors can also be due to a delayed reaction to something that happened earlier in the day or even days or weeks before that.

 Negative reactions will occur in the form of screaming, tantrums, pushing, and occasional violent behaviors. Sometimes, the child will be inconsolable. These extreme reactions are due to the increased stress, fear, and anxiety that arise due to changes in a familiar routine that make them feel less safe and secure.

 However, it is important to realize that these reactions and responses are not always caused by a change or disruption of routine. Distress of any kind could be due to other reasons that the child is unable to communicate. Sometimes, the distress can be due to other pent-up frustrations due to difficulties in being able to express emotions. Care should be taken to try and eliminate any underlying or possible factors that may be causing the distress, especially if there is a sudden change of behavior. It may even be necessary to arrange a medical checkup as a child with autism may find it difficult to locate pain or communicate where the pain is. 

Even very small or slight disruptions to a routine can cause a child diagnosed with autism to feel distress and confusion. Sometimes, disruptions to the routine are unavoidable such as changes that may happen in a schedule, school timetable, or school trips. Effective strategies are needed to help the child plan and prepare for any changes.

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