Play It Again, Sam
Eating the same two or three food items meal after meal. Playing with only one or two toys over and over. Having to take the exact same route every time to avoid a screaming meltdown. Repetition and rigidly sticking to a narrow, familiar range of activities, objects and foods are traits reflected in a significant percentage of people on the autism spectrum.
Though eating, watching, or playing with the same thing at an obsessive level can be problematic, one underlying trigger for repetition can be a need for familiarity. If the world feels overwhelming from various directions due to challenges relating to sensory, neurological, and other body systems, it makes sense to cling to the most tolerable food, toy, or travel route because they are more comforting than new, unfamiliar input.
Working to help a severely autistic person like my younger son be able to broaden his horizons and try new foods, new objects to interact with, and new places to explore can be extremely challenging. The effort has been worth expanding his world, but each step forward was achieved through months and sometimes years of hard work.
And it’s okay to go back to favorite things we like over and over. Nature hands us seasonal treats on repeat every year, whether it’s the beauty of fresh fallen snow or the blossoms of a favorite flower or tree. Working to live a less restricted life is great, but go ahead and enjoy the comfort and joy of repeated interactions with favorite things in life.
This week’s HikingAutism Hike Notes from the archives is Magnolia Stroll-San Francisco Botanical Garden, the most-frequently repeated archive hike because it’s hard to resist sharing information on the astounding variety of magnolia trees at San Francisco’s botanical gardens, which usually bloom over the period from January to March.
This week’s Hike Notes from the Archives:
(Original Hike Notes 46): Magnolia Stroll-San Francisco Botanical Garden
Click Insights/Hike Update News for inspiring reflections. Browse hikes and photo galleries via the main Hikes page or the Hike Search by Area (was Quick View Hike List) page. Click World Walks to see or share favorite walks from readers! Stay in touch with Lisa Louis and HikingAutism via Contact.
Check the Home page for the broader background story. Please feel free to share, and follow on Twitter at @HikingAutism
Sharing insights and hiking highlights (Hikes, Hike Search by Area) from the special needs caregiver front in San Francisco.