This page is designed to answer the following questions:
- 1.4. Explain why individuals with autism may find changes to their routine distressing. (Level 2 Certificate in Understanding Autism, Supporting positive behaviour in individuals with autism)
NOTE: This page has been quality assured for 2024 as per our Quality Assurance policy.
Individuals with autism often find changes to their routine distressing due to the way they process information and their inherent need for predictability and structure. Many people on the autism spectrum find comfort and security in routine, which helps them to make sense of a world that can seem chaotic and unpredictable. Routines provide a framework that is understandable and reliable, reducing anxiety by offering a predictable sequence of events that they can prepare for and control.
The distress caused by changes to routine can stem from several factors inherent to autism. Firstly, individuals with autism may have difficulty understanding and adapting to new situations, making unexpected changes particularly challenging. Such changes can lead to confusion, anxiety, and sometimes even fear, as they may struggle to comprehend what is expected of them or what will happen next. This uncertainty can be deeply unsettling, leading to increased stress levels.
Secondly, sensory sensitivities common among individuals with autism mean that new environments or changes in routine can introduce uncomfortable or overwhelming sensory experiences. The predictability of a routine helps to manage these sensitivities by ensuring that sensory inputs are known and manageable. A sudden change can disrupt this balance, leading to sensory overload and significant distress.
Moreover, communication challenges can exacerbate the difficulty in dealing with changes. Individuals with autism may find it hard to express their discomfort or to ask for clarification about the new situation, which can further increase their anxiety and frustration. The effort to comprehend and adjust to the change, while also coping with the inability to communicate their needs effectively, can be overwhelming.
Understanding this, it is crucial for caregivers, educators, and others who interact with individuals with autism to approach changes in routine with sensitivity and care. Providing advance notice of changes, offering clear explanations about what to expect, and gradually introducing new routines can help mitigate distress and support individuals with autism in navigating changes more comfortably. This empathetic and informed approach can significantly enhance their sense of security and wellbeing.