How often are we sitting in traffic, running late, hitting every red light, and becoming more and more frustrated? Or maybe waiting in a line that never seems to move, or in a doctor’s office waiting room well past your appointment time? We all experience these frustrations, but we all know that getting angry or frustrated or having a melt-down won’t make the problem go away.
But what about someone who can’t understand the problem and doesn’t understand what is happening? My daughter is special needs and has autism and cerebral palsy, so she rides the handicapped accessible bus to school. The bus usually arrives very close to 7:40 am and she is ready and waiting for the bus every day. For people with autism, routine is very often critically important to maintain order and control. Explaining that sometimes people are running late, or it will just be “a few more minutes” is lost on a person who has no sense of time other than what is happening in the moment.
Recently my daughter and I went outside at the appointed time to wait for the bus. We waited, and we waited, and we waited. As the clock continued to tick and no bus arrived, my daughter started to become more and more anxious. Had they forgotten her? (No, that’s never happened before.) Was there an accident? (I don’t know, probably not, they are just running late). When will they be here? When? When? When?
After waiting 30 minutes and no bus or call, I loaded my daughter into our vehicle and took her to school. That sounds pretty simple; she got to school, so no big deal. But, that isn’t her routine. Every day, we wait for the bus, she gets loaded on and we get a “have a great day, and I love you” before she goes. Yes, she got her “have a great day and I love you” but it wasn’t in our driveway as she waived while riding the wheelchair lift into the bus. Her routine was completely busted and so was her day. It took her teachers most of the school day to get her back on track. A nearly wasted day in school all because the bus was late (apparently it did arrive a few minutes after we had left in my vehicle).
I didn’t write this so someone will feel sorry for my daughter or think we are over-reacting to a late bus. Rather, next time you’re sitting in parking-lot type traffic, a waiting room, or line that won’t move, remember how interminable that wait or delay is to someone who doesn’t understand what is happening and does not have the ability to cope with the change in routine, and try to keep it in perspective.