Moderation in all things must be built into routine for individuals with autism because often the drive to obsess on one topic or activity is too great for them to maintain moderation on their own. While we all have habits, we can’t seem to control, this drive can be debilitating for individuals with autism. Like most women in America, I would like to lose 10-15 lbs. However, the positive feedback I get in my brain from eating milk chocolate wins over my knowledge that chocolate is a high calorie food that can lead to weight gain. This does not mean that I do not authentically want to be healthier, thinner, etc. Individuals with autism may know that they feel better or are happier when they don’t let their obsessions take over and control their lives, but without a routine, the temptation will be too great. Fortunately, they tend to thrive on routines and if given a healthy routine, they will tend to maintain it much better than neurotypical people, like myself, will maintain a routine of diet and exercise.
For the framework of this healthy routine, we turned to research on balanced living. Ideally, we all work a little, play a little, create a little, etc each day. While no one does this perfectly, we have all felt the stress emotionally and physically when we get too out of balance and one part of our lives takes over. In an effort to avoid this, we developed a pie chart to guide activity planning. While some individuals may rely on Ability Matters for all the areas in the pie chart, others may have some of these needs met by parents, extended family, school, etc. Regardless, the pie chart reminds us that life needs balance, especially if you have a disability that can increase your risk of hyper-focusing.