Coping with unexpected events

I read an article today about an autistic girl who just started school and her mum asked the teacher to always explain to that girl at the beginning of the day what is going to happen, so that she doesn’t have to cope with unexpected events as those are stressing her out. And I thought, once again, unexpected events are part of life. We can’t protect our autistic loved ones from them.

I’ve been thinking the entire day about what can be done to get an autistic person to learn to cope with things that haven’t been planned and I realised something: in the world how we know it now, almost all positive events (holidays, trips, parties) are planned while negative ones (illnesses and accidents, things getting broken, people cancelling plans) are unexpected. We, autistics, are good at spotting patterns but not necessarily that good at seeing the meaning.

So possibly, when an autistic person thinks they have to have everything going according to plan to feel comfortable, it is because they assume that things not going according to a plan means that something negative is about to happen?

I’m quite good with change for an autistic person, I would be probably around average if compared with neurotypical population. And I’m thinking, when I was a child, we didn’t have a phone, there was no landline available in the area. So when a family member or a friend wanted to visit it was never planned, they’d just turn up. So let’s say my plan for the afternoon would be to do nothing and then an auntie turned up and brought me a chocolate bar or a toy. And how exciting that was when both toys and chocolate were difficult to buy (that’s communism for you). And who knows, perhaps I learned this way that unexpected events can, and often are, positive?

Just a suggestion. I wonder what autism researchers would say for that.

And not that I am trying to say that everything about growing up in rural Poland during communism was great, oh no. I guess lack of opportunities and nothing going on was the biggest problem that didn’t disappear after I became young adult. It is possible that’s why I find it so difficult to wait for what I want to achieve – lack of social imagination doesn’t allow me to see that things are going in the right direction so instead I use the pattern that I know to assess the situation: there is nothing out there for me, I think. As usual.

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