Sunday, May 5, 2013

Be specific- How my autistic brain thrives on rules.

I used to spend hours arranging my barbies, and stuffed toys in rows.  I would take my line down again, and make a new rule for the order, and begin a new line.  The order might be by animal type, alphabetical, color, or even by most favorite to least.  I LOVED playing 'store' and would spend hours arranging all the 'merchandise' in my store.  I even made little price tags, and and sales receipts. I spent 10 times longer setting up my store, than actually playing with it.  I mostly liked playing with my brother, because he had to play my way.  I didn't have so much control over other children.  I wasn't very nice to my brother, and would often smack (I'm embarrassed to admit that!) him when he didn't obey my rules.

Now, I do this with adult things. 
I hear lots of people say they don't know about things in their closets, and such. I know every last place in the closets in my home. My boys' closet, for example, I have everything measured up by size, because it is the most logical to me to use things that they will grow out of first.  So, I will measure every item of clothing up to the others, and put the smallest ones first.  I cannot stand when this order gets messed up.  Clothes in my closet are by category.  I sort my husband's by work clothes, and good clothes, because he doesn't do well in discerning for himself in this area.  I could find anything I wanted to in my closet blindfolded. 

My pantry is the same way. Everything has it's place in little lines, and it never changes.

Everything in my house has a rule, and an order. It's my way of making sense of the chaos.  I need this to feel safe. I need this to feel predictable.  Some would see this way of living as stifling, but I see it as a way to calm my inner nerves.  I like rules,  They make sense to me.  If I can apply a rule to something then I can make sense of it. Dinner is at 6, and the floor gets vacuumed every other day.  These are rules in an otherwise chaotic world that help me to function. Bubby seems to be much the same.  As long as he has a rule, then he can follow it.  When he was little, I would give him 'the rule' when it was time to do anything.  Like, if we were cleaning up, I would say pick up the red legos, or blue trucks, and he would get right to it.  He now had a rule to apply to the big messy, broad idea of "clean up". Our brains work in specifics. Timers work well, too. Brush teeth for 2 minutes, clean for 5. It worked. It took what appeared to everyone else to be a defiant child to one that was eager to do what he was told.

My childhood fixations on lines of toys have turned into an adult fixation on lines of household items.  The behavior never went away.  I just learned to use it differently.  Many parents don't like it when their child spends long periods of time arranging their toys, instead of using them functionally, as they were intended to be used. What they don't understand is that these behaviors serve a very important function for us, and can be used in very productive ways as adults.

17 comments:

  1. This is interesting to me in trying to understand my Aspie...he always had his own rules for games instead of the ones they came with and sadly most of the time we just gave up because about 5 min in we were hopelessly lost...he also prefers playing with relatives or younger children bc he can make them follow his rules...Thanks for posting

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  2. I've had students who are the same way. And you wouldn't believe what a welcome trait that is in a school library aide! I can see all sorts of ways this characteristic can be useful in the adult world as well. There are many jobs out there where precision and correctness are vital. Wouldn't it be great if guidance counselors could see such strengths and help students via career counseling to find rewarding jobs?

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    1. It would be wonderful! It's a great trait for so many things. If only school were to find, and cater to our strengths.

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  3. First, I love your posts. They are always filled with helpful information. So, thank you!

    Funny that you mention the lining up of things. I recently came across a bunch of photos of my son's lined up objects and was going to do a post about them at some point. At the time I don't think I had much of an idea of what it could mean, I just thought it was cute and would snap photos of anything he did. :) Now, I have a much better idea and also try hard not to make him change. I feel his behaviors like constant humming, spinning, or lining up don't hurt anyone and make him happier.

    I was also a Barbie fanatic. I don't remember really lining things up so much as a child, but I was very concerned with "making their houses". I would plan to set up a barbie house, and adjust it, and then change it again, always trying to make it perfect. In the end I would rarely ever play with either. The fun was in the plan and set up.

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    1. Oh, I remember doing some pretty serious collecting for my Barbie settings. I would find use in the most common items. Suddenly, syrup caps were bowls, and those little white things that came with your pizza to stop the cheese from sticking to the top of the box were little tables. I was really resourceful with setting things up!

      Thank you so much for reading, and commenting!

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  4. This is great. I can totally relate!

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    1. Glad others can! Who knew there were so many others like me out there?

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  5. I love this post, for I have been lining thins up since I was a little kid. I would always line my stuff animals up as a kind before I would go to bed at night and in fact I still do this as a 21 year old college student. As a young aspie I would have to play my talking blue’s clues every night before I would go to bed, for he was the kind that would go to sleep so I felt that I had to get him to sleep first. I also would image that my stuffies were real and still do sometimes. I really enjoyed your post and look forward to reading more!

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    1. When I was young I thought everything had feelings,and would imagine that everything was living. Hard to explain now.
      Thanks for reading, and commenting!

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    2. Yes, I was the exact same way when I was little too and I still catch myself from time to time stilling thinking my stuff animals have real human feelings. I still hate when people throw my stuff animals because I think they are going to get hurt and be in pain! LOL It’s quite eccentric, but most people don’t mind!

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  6. It seems to me, that with the incredible unpredictability of "unwritten rules" in social communication, that the predictability of rules in one's own home and life brings some order to the chaos of everyday living. Thanks for the great insight :)

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    1. Pretty sure that it helps to reset my brain against all the uncertainty of the world. Thanks for your comments, and Twitter shares!

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    -30 percent of American women take psychiatric drugs.
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    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sounds like you have some strong opinions about ladies. Since I am an American woman, this might not be the best venue for you to air your concerns.

      Delete
    2. I wonder if you have the statistics available for American MEN? Regarding Drugs, STDs, and weight. And as far as single mothers raising criminals, where, exactly WERE the fathers? Who initiates the legal proceedings in a divorce does not indicate who left, nor does it cover the "why".
      The description of "immature, selfish, extremely arrogant and self-centered, mentally unstable, irresponsible, and highly unchaste" isn't gender specific, and just because you have never dated men, doesn't mean that men are less likely to have these character defects.
      This is not meant to imply that you should change your mind. I think most American women will be quite happy for you to boycott them.

      Delete
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