Leaving Comfort Zones

June 28, 2015

I should write this blog every day, recording small events – those that demonstrate progress and those that illustrate Robert’s difficulties in adjusting to changing environments or even everyday fluctuations. When I don’t write for a few days in a row, too many topics compete for the right to be written about.  Unable to choose, I don’t write at all.

Last week, Robert got a reward at his program.  Sarah, who was presenting the reward praised Robert, among other things, for being able to leave   his comfort zone and try new things. This simple observation struck me as surprisingly accurate.

Just a couple of hours before Robert got a reward, he had  hard time getting ready for a banquet. The need to change his clothes during the day, went against one of Robert’s rule – changing clothes was allowed  only in the morning and in the evening.  As my husband and I dressed up, Robert remained doubtful. He kept taking dress shirt and slacks from the closet and placing them back on hangers. He was anxious, he was hesitant, he was not sure. The rules were obviously broken, but then banquets do not happen every day. It is possible that they come with a different sets of laws. Any way, seeing his parents dressed up and ready to leave, Robert quickly replaced his jeans and T-shirt with more elegant attire.

After the dinner, but before the reward ceremony, Robert’s dad went to the restroom. Robert didn’t mind at first.  But as the time passed and dad didn’t come back, Robert became more and more anxious.  “Dad, dad, dad” he kept calling more and more often and louder and louder.  I decided to take Robert to search for dad.  dad was not in the men’s restroom.  Robert was desperate. As he left men’s restroom, he stopped in front of women’s facility.  it was clear that he considered unthinkable – venturing into that room to retrieve his father. Desperate situations call for desperate measure.

I stopped him just in time.

When Robert’s name was called, he got up from his chair hesitantly with a very serious expression on his face. It seemed as if he expected being called but not exactly. He slowly went toward the center front of the room.  There was a lot of cheering.  He received a commemorative plaque. Well, he took it and ….handed it back. Robert doesn’t take other people stuff even when they offer it to him.   It took a while to convince Robert that the plaque was his.  After all his full name was on it.

Robert’s world is governed by multiple, and rather rigid rules. They provide structure in which Robert operates, but they also narrow Robert’s universe. To expand it, Robert has to leave his safety zone and venture outside. That is not easy, but it is a necessary aspect of full human experience.

It is important to add, that very often Robert understands that the broken rule was replaced by a new one. As anxious as Robert might be doing things in a new way, the positive consequence is that he is learning and enlarging his universe. Just a week after the banquet, Robert got a banner during a social outing.  He didn’t mind taking it home.  Didn’t mind at all.




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