My child is autistic. He doesn’t do well with change. Even little things that would be meaningless to most people.
For example, his hairbrush was getting old and worn. He had chewed the end of it. The cats had chewed some bristles. It was dirty and dusty. But I didn’t say anything. Because it’s his hairbrush.
Finally, he said he thinks it’s time for a new brush. Ok, I say, we’ll put it on the shopping list, and get one next time we’re in town.
So we go to town and we go to the store. There are many hairbrushes to choose from. He picks one and they even have it in his favorite color. We buy it, take it home, and remove the packaging.
I go to put it on the shelf where the old hairbrush is. Can we throw out the old one, I ask.
That’s when he stops. That’s when he freezes and gets a momentary look of panic on his face. Throw out the old one? That hadn’t occurred to him.
Because here’s the thing. Hair brushing is a part of his morning routine. And not just hair brushing, but hair brushing with that particular brush. To most people, the act of hair brushing is the routine, but not the brush itself. The objects are interchangeable. But not to my child. Not to someone with autism. The brush itself is just as important as the act of brushing.
So I take a breath. I put the old brush down. Think about it, I say. Let me know tomorrow what you want to do with this brush.
He decides. He realizes keeping an old hairbrush is not necessary. But it’s still important to him. So he asks if I can cut off one bristle. To keep. As a memory of the old hairbrush.
I don’t laugh. I don’t tell him it’s silly. I respect his need. I cut off the bristle. He puts it in his treasure box, along side some smooth rocks, beads, sparkly decals, a Santa Claus charm from a classmate, a few other things meaningful to him.
He throws the old hairbrush away himself. He is able to move on, and accept the change.
This is a great way to help an autistic person move on properly, instead of forcing them to get rid of it you let them use their own method and left them feeling safe. Congrats fam👏👏