What makes autistic people like routine?

Last updated on February 25, 2021

Like routine….Hmmm, I am not sure that I would put it that way.

It is more that I dislike not having sameness.

Remember me and the purple crayon?

Embrace Autism | What makes autistic people like routine? | main qimg 05f4ffd8c118e29fa008efc17d0425c3

Well, it is kind of like that. You REALLY REALLY want to try something else, but there is nothing else that seems quite as likable.


Let’s visit Natalie’s Chez Autism restaurant and let us see what we have had on the menu over the last few years….

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Neurotypicals usually do not like sameness…they experience something called hedonic adaptation, with almost everything.

Have a look at the graph below, with neurotypicals in black and autistics in purple. When I drink a smoothie, I love it day after day after day after day… You get the picture.

Embrace Autism | What makes autistic people like routine? | main qimg e148a84ce919ca9a3468aa43f554c1a3

When a neurotypical eats, has sex with someone, etc. their pleasure quickly decreases. Hence why neurotypicals say things like: “It does not matter where you get your appetite, as long as you come home and eat.” when referring to being sexually aroused to people when they are out in their day and then coming home to have sex with their partner. It is also why neurotypicals lie to their partners about who they are thinking about during sex.

Let’s go back to the purple line…that is me again with my partner. I adore them day after day after day…I don’t want to be thinking about someone else. I am lala, gaga, over them, just like I was the day I fell in love.

And whether it is four hours or four seconds….when I see them this is how I react:

Embrace Autism | What makes autistic people like routine? | main qimg e47be1ac386f5f384514852873c03d0f
Image source: Oatmeal.com

So what about sameness in my day…like my routine?

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Image source: pininterest

My clothes?

Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday

Embrace Autism | What makes autistic people like routine? | main qimg 38089b741b5b7474caa0517a7e747498
Image source: pininterest

Thursday, Friday, Saturday & Sunday

Embrace Autism | What makes autistic people like routine? | main qimg 38089b741b5b7474caa0517a7e747498
Image source: pininterest

And yes I know my hair looks the same…I have had the same hairdresser, a guy named Fritz for 30 years now…doing the same cut…I will admit I once tried a different cut I was very unhappy.


And what happens if you try to change any of this for me…

Embrace Autism | What makes autistic people like routine? | main qimg b5df4ce70f680b8530c6957d129bbfa7

And then….

Embrace Autism | What makes autistic people like routine? | main qimg b13720bc6a42d825e2c84764371a1756
Image source: The Pell Center

As I said…I am not sure that I like routine, I just like sameness, and don’t like change.


In an unpredictable world, routine provides the framework for our day. Routine is created by us in order to minimize sensory experiences and avoid overstimulation in the day-to-day experiences that non-autistic people find normal. If our routine is disturbed everything feels precarious, like the floor dropping out from under us. This can result in us being quite rigid about our routines and yet at the same time, we can feel imprisoned by our routine.

References

This article
was written by:
dr-natalie-engelbrecht
I’m a dually licensed registered psychotherapist and naturopathic doctor, and a Canadian leader in trauma, PTSD, and integrative medicine strictly informed by scientific research.And not only do I happen to be autistic, but my autism plays a significant role in who I am as a doctor and how I interact with and care for my patients and clients.

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