The 3 R's....routine, ritual, and repetition

The 3 R's....routine, ritual, and repetition are very important to an autistic individual  when they feel anxious, upset, or otherwise distressed.  Unpredictability creates an undo amount of stress because we have a compulsion to script every moment so we feel in control even when we aren't. Routines is something we create that is very predictable and gives us a sense of control. When stressed we resort to activities that are familar and constant. In my case this past summer I dealt with alot of stress working as kayak guide. I would go to work expecting a tour and get there to find that my tour had no people so I had no work. I had other tours in the afternoon so I couldn't go home and I was unprepared for the unscripted hours from morning til afternoon.  I needed to de-stress and I enjoy walking as a means to get calm. I would walk or pace back and forth along the beach for hours on end.  To not look like a crazy person I unintentionally  began looking down picking up shiny objects in this case bits of sea glass to avoid being looked at as a crazy person who just paces like a caged animal.  Very soon it became a ritual to search for sea glass when I resorted to walking the beach . I would comb the stretch of beach again and again as I always found I missed something the first few times around. It became very repetitive and as a result aided in a sense of calming down and feeling like I gained control over the unpredictable by doing something that was familar,  something that kept me focused [looking for sea glass],  and something that was predctable and constant and not subject to fluidity of change which is all around us. The strech of beach was short maybe 50' feet or so but the walking back and forth looking for "treasure" was all that mattered. I would set goals of how many pieces I should find and that too helped maintaining the repetitiveness of walking such a short distance for hours on end.

It is a harmless routine marked by ritual and repetition and having been allowed to do that  staved off potential meltdowns for me. I looked like any other tourist searching for sea glass. When stressed and I need to engage in such a routine I want to be left alone. The distraction of someone talking or shadowing my every move only contributes to adding to my anxiety level and in times like these I need to be left alone. It is perceived as intrusion by an outsider and an autistic person feels their routine or ritual that they have meticulously created will be messed up if another gets too close as we cannot predict their movements. Something simple like walking a different path or going at a different pace is enought to give the impression the very calming tool they were using is no longer effective.  More harm is done by just being "too close". The best solution is to leave them be and if safety is an issue keep an eye on them from a distance.  Just think of it..routine is something we do the same thing of alot so there is not such a great danger of doing something different that could be potentially harmful.  In my case I was self contained. There was a zero chance I would wander away from the beach and onto the street as no sea glass can be found on pavement.  Use discretion as this varies from person to person but overrall  don't interfere with this most important calming strategy we autistics use.