Repetitive Behavior and the Need for Sameness
Table of Contents
Video: Judy Endow Statement
Consistency is key! The ever evolving world can be overwhelming to many individuals on the autism spectrum. Priming for what is to happen and practicing how to respond are just a few accommodations that help individuals feel more secure in their day-to-day tasks. Technology offers multiple means to support both priming and practicing. Judy Endow, author and professional in the field of autism, describes in the previous video clip how change in the environment might feel to some individuals on the spectrum. Her perspective offers others, such as coworkers and team members, insight into how an individual may feel when parts of her day are unknown. If routine or change is communicated prior to the event happening, there will be a reduced level of anxiety around the event or task for some individuals with ASD.
Repetitive Behaviors and Routines
Individuals with ASD may demonstrate ritualistic or repetitive behaviors, ranging from physical routines, to verbal repetition, to limited use of topics. In some situations, these behaviors or interests might potentially interfere with the workplace plan. In other situations, they can become an asset. Repetitive behaviors may be more obvious when adjusting to new settings as the rigid behavior may intensify. Requirements of the new job may not easily align with the individual’s established routines. Patience and support can lead to adjustments that work for everyone.
Need for Sameness
Many people with ASD find it easier to be productive and independent when they know that schedules and routines will remain the same. They frequently describe change as difficult and will avoid or resist it because of the anxiety associated with the unknown. Attempts to create predictability often result in what is described as ‘nonfunctional repetitive behaviors and routines’. However, this is actually not true! Creating predictability is extremely functional for a person when feeling out of control or in unfamiliar territory. Providing proactive supports for change is foundational. Adjusting to changes in routines, people, jobs, materials, etc. may take more time and preparation for the individual with ASD than for other employees, but it may be necessary for success.
Change is inevitable. Preparing individuals for change and what to expect can make learning or doing something new easier to accept and more successful. ‘Priming’ someone as to what is coming next provides time to think about and adjust to a new event or task. Often the anxiety is reduced and the person can can focus on the necessary steps for success in the new situation.