That's not the case for autistics.
In the evening, my husband and I have a cup of tea and watch an episode of something before bed. He has normal tea and I have peppermint tea. I've been drinking peppermint tea as a bedtime drink for almost 13 years now, so now my body takes it as a cue that it's time to mentally and physically start shutting down and preparing for sleep. The structure goes thus:
- Put water in kettle and turn kettle on
- Put out the two mugs side-by-side, his on the left, mine on the right
- Put normal teabag in his mug and peppermint teabag in mine (always the same mugs)
- Get two teaspoons out and place by the side of the mugs
- While kettle is boiling, check front door (it has to be manually locked; it's not an automatic lock) and put the chain across if it hasn't already been done (while we're very much in the habit of locking the door behind us once we're in, if we're distracted, such as desperately needing the toilet, it doesn't always happen)
- If kettle still hasn't boiled, tidy sink area
- When kettle has boiled, pour water into the mugs, Gideon's first, then mine
- When tea has brewed, remove teabags, put milk and sugar in Gideon's, and take through to the living room
But sometimes that specific routine goes differently, and here are the outcomes from previous occasions when I've deviated from that precise structure:
- Putting the mugs out before putting water in the kettle meant I forgot to turn the kettle on so wondered why, after a good ten minutes, I hadn't heard the kettle boil
- Putting Gideon's mug on the right and mine on the left led to the normal teabag going in my mug and the peppermint one in his, which then led to me putting milk and sugar in the peppermint tea (not a pleasant taste!)
- Using completely different mugs (the usual ones had been used by guests and had yet to be washed up) threw me so badly I didn't know whose mug was whose, although I was somewhat rescued from that because the Sainsbury's normal teabags are round and the Twining's peppermint teabags are rectangular, so I had the visual cue to work from, enabling me to rescue the situation
- On one occasion I didn't check the front door while the kettle was heating up so we discovered the next morning that our door had been unlocked all night with no chain across - so anyone could have wandered in!
- I've gone and checked the door before putting the teabags in the mugs, which led to there being no teabags when I poured water into the mugs, and because I'd been and checked the door, my body and brain assumed the teabags were in the mugs
- Once I poured the water into my mug before Gideon's - and so I didn't pour any water into his mug! That one was rectified almost immediately, when I looked into the mug and realised the absence of water, but still, it happened
My dressing routine goes thus:
- Underwear (bra then knickers)
- Socks (in summer I often forgo this step, as I tend to wear sandals)
When I'm going out, if it's cooler/wet, I need to put my shoes on before a coat. Because if, as I discovered on Monday (perhaps "rediscovered" as I'm certain this isn't the first time it's happened; Monday is just fresh in my memory?), I put the coat on first, I will forget to put my shoes on. This leads to me being halfway to the car before realising I still have my slippers on! This is because the act of putting my coat on means my brain assumes I have already put my shoes on.
It's not just these two things; they're just two examples of my daily life and I could easily give many more! And it's not just me; this is standard for autistics.
When I get interrupted mid-routine, it really throws me. If I'm in the middle of certain activities, please let me see them through and don't interrupt me. Please let me finish. Please don't be offended or take it personally if I don't respond until I have finished that routine.
I used to refer to this as "ditziness"/"being a ditz" because it seemed to fit the meaning, but now I know I'm autistic, I've come to realise that it's because of this.
I do think there's an over-pathologising of autistic people's behaviours in some cases, but in this case it's definitely part of the autism.
The routines and structures are necessary to enable us to live our lives. They don't cause harm, they help us. Be respectful of that and accept that.