Behavioral Scripting: Every Day Can Be Your Birthday

Today’s post is brought to you by Courtney, my friend who I met through the glory that is social media. Courtney is autistic, and like many autistic folks, sometimes she has a hard time making decisions or managing unstructured weekends.

Recently, Courtney shared that she was celebrating her birthday – but it wasn’t her actual birthday. It was a friend’s birthday, and the friend joked that it was Courtney’s birthday as well. She decided to go with it, and she shared that it helped her know what to do with herself.

Photo by George Dolgikh @ Giftpundits.com on Pexels.com

Courtney shared: “I never really thought about it this way. But I struggle a lot on weekends without my pre-pandemic beauty appointments. I don’t know what to do with my hands! Having a ‘birthday’ creates a structure I can visualize and is probably helpful for both my husband and me (autistic).”

Many autistic folks prefer to have a routine or structure to follow. The routine is soothing, and knowing what to expect can prevent overstimulation.

The term “scripting” refers to repeating specific language from media or other people. Some autistic people use scripting to manage anxiety, or to help decide what to say in an unfamiliar social situation. But we can think of “scripting” as more than just language! Certain events have a “script” or a series of expected, structured behaviors and activities.

Although it varies from person to person, when it is your birthday, you have an idea of what you are going to do. You know what you are going to wear, what food you will eat, and what you can expect from the day.

The same is true for other holidays: New Years, Thanksgiving, Christmas (if you celebrate), and many other days have predictable expectations for the day.

If you find that you have trouble with open-ended, unstructured days, you can make any day your birthday or another holiday. Let those scripts make your decisions for you, provide routine, and set up expectations for the day.

And if you are on Twitter, give Courtney a follow because she is wonderful.

Published by Dr Marschall

Dr. Amy Marschall received her Psy.D. from the University of Hartford in September 2015. Her clinical interests are varied and include child and adolescent therapy, TF-CBT, rural psychology, telemental health, sexual and domestic violence, psychological assessment, and mental illness prevention. Dr. Marschall presently works in the Child and Adolescent Therapy Clinic at Sioux Falls Psychological Services in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where she provides individual and family therapy and psychological assessment to children, adolescents, and college students. She also facilitates an art therapy group for adolescents and college students with anxiety and depression. Dr. Amy Marschall is certified in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Telemental Health.

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