Having autism, transitions have always been difficult. Especially going from a preferred activity to a non preferred activity or even just leaving a preferred activity can be difficult. Especially when I was younger, having something really enjoyable take place was a rarity and I wanted to hold onto it as long as I could. I just didn’t understand clinging too long would turn into a sensory overload or a melt down. I didn’t have the foresight to understand this. All I know is this moment is great and I don’t want to leave it for a not great moment.
So you can see how following this state of mind, a transition can be daunting. So my parents would give the 30 minute warning, and then the 10 minute warning, and then the 5 minute warning. I would still refuse and would have to be dragged out of my preferred activity kicking and screaming. Why? They gave me all the transition I needed. Right?
What I actually received was a warning system, not a transition. Now as an adult, this warning system is perfect because I know how to use that time to transition, but as an elementary school kid it was an alarm that kept making me more upset that they wanted me to go from a happy state of mind to a not so happy place. The anxiety built up. The anticipation built up.
The one transition that they got correct was at the pool. When I went swimming my parents would give me the 30 minute warnings and then the 10 minute warnings— but then we sat on the side of the pool for 10 minutes, then we sat in a lawn chair and ate a snack for 20 minutes, then we went to the bathroom and changed, then we stood by the gate and said goodbye to everyone for another 10 minutes. I found myself leaving the pool with much more of an easy time than most other activities that I enjoyed.
Now I understand why I couldn’t get out of the car when it reached the destination. We had arrived at Disneyland, but I wasn’t ready to be at Disneyland. Now I understand why I have to log off my computer programs and stare at the screen before I close down the computer and why I have to sit with my laptop in my arm for a few minutes before I leave.
I wish I knew how to explain this to my parents when I was younger so I didn’t have a preferred activity snatched out of my hands and locked away. I felt like I was misbehaving and breaking rules, but I didn’t understand why. I didn’t understand why I got so upset to leave fun activities when I knew they must come to an end eventually. I wish I could erase the pain of feeling like a misbehaved brat when I was just having a hard time. Having a hard time is perfectly okay.