Autistic Life Hacks

For all that I pretend I’m far too canny to fall for click bait, I’m actually a sucker for a life-hack despite the stupid name – they’re just helpful tips, gosh darn it! No one is hacking anything!

But there are a few things that do help me through the day, and just in case anyone might be interested, I thought I would share.

Take up Crochet

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It doesn’t have to be crochet, it can be knitting or origami or sketching, or whatever takes your fancy. It just needs to be something small enough and light enough to fit in a pocket or a bag. 

This is great for long journeys or visits to relatives or sitting in a cafe. It’s not the same as reading or playing on your phone, because the point of it is that you will be doing it whilst interacting. 

  • Don’t like eye-contact? I’m not being rude, I can’t talk and look at you and count stitches at the same time!
  • Find it difficult sitting still and doing nothing? You’re being creative! You can move as much or as little as you like. I find it really helps me focus on conversation too. 
  • Worried about where the conversation might go?  Chances are you’ll be asked about what it is you’re making – which will helpfully match your interests. 

Bonus that I find the process soothing and relaxing. Find something that fits with you, and it can ease the tension of being in a strange place, or worrying about where to look and what to do with your hands. 

Have your Bag Perpetually Packed

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I hate getting everything I will need together – it takes executive function that I lack. 

When I was at school I couldn’t keep on top of which books/kit I needed on which days, and no one listened when I said I found it hard: They lacked the social imagination to see that just because they found something easy, didn’t mean that everyone does. 

My solution was to take everything with me everywhere at all times. This was not a great solution. Back problems and a bag that weighs a ton, didn’t really go together, but it was all I could manage, and the pain was better than being told I was daft and feeling like a failure. 

Now I try to consider what I’ll need, but travel light. I top things up as they run out, and keep a routine for everything else. There are five key ingredients to my bag:-

  1. Food and drink – water and a snack that will keep if I don’t eat it this time
  2. A ball of wool and a crochet hook (I keep patterns on my phone)
  3. Small origami paper 
  4. Headphones and sunglasses
  5. A scarf that can double as a blanket, pillow or whatever else I can think of

By leaving it packed where possible, but also having a set list of things, it takes away uncertainty. I know what I need to have. I will know what I have with me. Phone and money would be in there too, but they’re not bag-specific!

Research new places

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Google maps, google street view and searching websites for photos – life is so much easier these days. I need to know where the front door is. Where the parking is. Who I will have to interact with. These things all help make places more accessible. 

Plan your recovery time

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So I want to go to something. It will be loud, it will be crowded, it will make my head buzz by the end of it. I need to factor in recovery time. 

It might be afterwards, it might be tomorrow, but my mind will need time to unwind somewhere dark and quiet, or I’m going to exhaust myself and risk shutdowns or meltdowns where I don’t get a say in the matter. 

This isn’t something to be taken lightly, it’s important. The more I plan, the more I can do, and that can only be a good thing. 

Work to your strengths

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This is probably a bit too big to be a life-hack. It can mean anything from, ‘find work that fits with your interests’, to, ‘If you’re happy hanging out the washing, and they’re happy getting a pint of milk, then that’s fine”. 

I used to be disproportionately grateful to my husband for grabbing milk on the way home from work. I could have gone, but he was happy to. He had to sit me down and say, “Look, this a huge effort for you;  the lights, the social ambushes, the whole thing takes a lot of effort. It’s easy for me. Just takes me the time of popping in and out again. I’m happy to do it.”

Read to Sleep

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I’ve always done it, and still do it. These days it’s usually a kindle that hits me on the nose as I doze off, rather than a heavy tome. Having a kindle with a light, means when I wake in the night I don’t have to turn the light on, and can read myself to sleep again. 

There’s something magical about it, it brings my brain all together to focus on one thing. I’m not a reading snob, it doesn’t matter what you read. I go from important and worthy books to Deadpool comics (totally worthy) in one swoop. 

It’s not about what you read, it’s about the reading. Comics, magazines, books. Stay away from newspapers and current affairs – they won’t help you get to sleep and they’ll bring nightmares – and don’t use your phone. Stay away from google! You’ll fall down a rabbit hole and stay up all night. 

Lots of words. Take them and put them in your eyes to fill your head up. It’s my favourite soporific. 

Noise Cancelling Headphones

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You don’t have to buy the expensive ones, although they do fit nicely and work well. There is nothing more amazing than flipping that switch and the world being taken away from your head. 

The pressure lifts, the headache eases, they are magical. I always thought I was too old and too desensitised for them, I was wrong. 

Never buy Women’s Trousers*

*That’s ‘Pants’ to you non-native English Speakers!

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This could just be me, but I had enough of rubbish pockets. The only women’s trousers that I have ever loved have been Screwfix’s work trousers (soooo many pockets). It’s not that I never buy women’s, but when it comes to fitted they simply aren’t practical and don’t fit well. I don’t want something so tight that I can’t move, I want something warm, comfy, useful, that I can wear without wriggling.

I hate carrying a bag when I can avoid it, so enormous pockets are essential. This probably won’t work if you don’t have long legs (but turnups are cool, right? Right?!), but for me I am never going back. Men’s trousers fit. They’re comfortable and have pockets that fit everything AS STANDARD (!) 

Women have suffered for too long. Sod that! It’s a conspiracy to keep us uncomfortable, don’t fall for it. Pockets are wonderful. I even found some great work shorts with extra pockets for walking in. I am clearly a fashion icon. 

Boots!

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I rarely meet an autistic woman who doesn’t have the best boots. Doc Martens, Fly London, Destroy, these are a few of my favourite things. 

Big, clumpy, stimtastic, comfortable boots. Your feet will love you forever and every step will feel firm and safe. 

The right person is worth ten

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I used to worry about not having loads and loads of friends. I build friendships slowly, my passion for things can confuse people, I am not someone people warm to instantly. 

Many of my friends are far afield. I’ve moved too much, or met people online, or they’ve moved. Life gets in the way – life is like that. Some friends I see once every few years. Some friends I message a few times a week. Some friends I see every few months, but don’t contact in between. 

I’m never going to be someone who can keep up constant contact, or be everyone’s friend.  

I could be sad about that, but actually, it’s what works for me. If you have one person who knows you inside out, who you never have to mask with, who you trust, then that is more than many can ever hope for. 

I am enormously lucky that my friends know me. They are the people that I let in, and who didn’t run screaming. They are the people who engaged with who I am. They are the best people for me, and I am incredibly lucky to have them. Online friends are real friends too!

It’s not about being grateful for what you have, it’s about realising what works for you, and not pushing for something that might suit other people, but would drive you up the wall. 

Find a Good Ceiling

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When all else has failed, look up. There are very rarely people on the ceiling. Ceilings are usually a mix of shadows and patterns, and I find them a wonderful escape. It doesn’t always work; sometimes a ceiling has fluorescent lighting, or it’s too low, but mostly they are an escape from what is happening around you.

When I go to a new place, I always check out the ceilings first. Once that route of pattern-finding is anchored, I know it’s there if I need it.

 

 

That’s all from me, but I would love to hear any tips you might like to share. I’m sure there are loads of things I haven’t covered. Please feel free to add yours in the comments or tweet them at @outfoxgloved

By sharing what helps us, we can all make the world a little bit easier

43 thoughts on “Autistic Life Hacks

  1. Agree with every one of these! Some of my life hacks are 1.Writing a daily plan (the night before, so when I wake up the next morning I know exactly what I’m supposed to be doing and when) 2. Planning a weekly menu and sticking to it so I know what I’m eating each day and what I need to buy each week 3. Don’t go anywhere without a notebook and pen. Things WILL randomly enter your mind at any time of the day or night! 4. ROUTINE ROUTINE ROUTINE! Make a certain day your ‘food shopping’ day, 2pm your ‘dog walking’ time etc

    Loving your blog! Looking forward to more posts =]

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you! Those are great tips! Routine is definitely the way to go – I’ve noticed that if something in my routine changes unexpectedly, the whole thing can fall apart and I’ll forget to do the most obvious things. Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes I can definitely relate to this! I write my routine down, including when to eat/do laundry/walk my dog. People find it hard to understand autism as I have a degree so I’m not incapable but when it comes to daily things I get easily lost!

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Exactly. People find it so hard to imagine what it’s like to find stuff they do easily, difficult. But there are many things I find easy that are apparently hard for the majority.

          Writing the routine down is a good tip. Thank you!

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Those are nearly all helpful for me too!

    Mine to add is: Always putting things in the same place is necessary for me or I can’t find anything I need. Even if it’s right next to the usual spot, I simply won’t see it.

    I second the notebook and pen hack too. I keep multiple colors of pens along with a notebook in my main going places bag so my notebook is pretty and I can easily see when days or topics change based on color.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I use Moleskin notebooks and make tabs down the side for months and things to remember along the top. Just to be sure I do the outer edge of the page in washi tape – a different one each month. This gets done as the days progress because I never know how much I will write at any given time. 😁

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I keep a set of sponge ear-plugs for when noises get me .. since getting this idea I can go to the cinema again. It is crazy how loud the sound has got now – it really didn’t used to be that strong. Also useful for roadworks etc
    I also keep a bag ready and have Dr Martens. Some running shoes are good too. Will have to look at the trousers idea… that seems like a little gem of an idea! Great post. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow, this was great.

    A personal hack I use is associating music and objects – I have mild synesthesia and high visuospatial abilities. I associate one album to multiple correlated objects, and condition myself enough to strongly associate the objects with the music, so that when I look/hear one, another is invoked. This helps me calm down REALLY fast after stressful/unwanted situations. But, there are caveats to this. First, said music and object is ONLY for relaxation, otherwise you’ll have perturbing emotions. Second, every subsequent use without further reinforcement to the “baseline” will degrade and possibly even corrupt the positive emotions attached to the object/sound. This is why objects/sounds should be changed as required, never cycled and never repeated. Emotional memory is a beast best left unchecked, it holds the web of memories together for centuries and a bad disruption, unwarranted, accidental or otherwise, will always bring negative consequences. Digging a ditch to hide problems never works.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yes!! My spouse and I had a roommate some years back and one day she noticed my weekly to-do checklist on the fridge. I overheard her say to her girlfriend, “How does a grown-ass adult need to be reminded to shower and brush their teeth??”

    In addition to being autistic I also have dysexecutive syndrome from a traumatic brain injury, so my executive functioning is sometimes nearly non-existent!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Some people have no empathy! EF can be so frustrating. Running out of milk can cause me to forget to brush my teeth, because without milk I can’t start my day with coffee, and then I won’t dress at the right time, and it’ll all go to pot, and the knock on effects last into the next few sections of “things I always do like this”.

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  6. good hacks. i love knit and crochet, they are so relaxing and fidgety in an acceptable way and you can create cool stuff.
    added to the noise canceling headphones: musician ear plugs! they mute everything a bit but you still hear with them on. so wear in concerts, loud bars when with friends, or as a blindy walking outdoors when you still need to hear the approaching cars etc.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Some good tips – those little hacks can really make life easier. For me, a big step was admitting to myself that I needed some more routine etc. and not to go around saying ‘oh no, I’m not that sort of person, I don’t need that’. It took me ages to sort my CDs by genre and alphabetical order, but ever since I did it it’s so much better! Likewise establishing a rota for bedsheets, I just look at the list to see which set has its turn, and thus they get all used equally (something that’s very important to me). Or the trouser rota; if it’s predetermined that this is brown trouser week, it doesn’t take much time to pick something out that goes with them. For some reason I was resisting the establishment of such routines for the longest time, but things are so much better with them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like the idea of more than a routine for me, a routine for all the things in my life too. I would love someone to sweep in and organise books and CDs. Every once in a while I make a start and it leaves me defeated! One day.

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  8. This I know for sure: Never, ever let anyone make life choices for you. Anyone on the spectrum capable of deciding what is or isn’t right for them should do so. Because of being let down by authority figures and family members alike, I made the decision to trust my own instincts about what is or isn’t right. Even though I have been labelled an “idiot” by at least one family member, I stood my ground and refused to back down. If in doubt, don’t. We have to fight for ourselves. And for those who can’t. Because not many neurotypicals seem to be in our corner. Anyone wants to prove me wrong? Feel free.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We definitely all have our own lives to live, and it’s so important that we are given the freedoms to make our own decisions – and mistakes too, we all need to make mistakes. I certainly agree with that! Thank you 💐

      Liked by 2 people

      1. That is the saddest thing about autism, when it’s not so much random outsiders making you like a nothing, but your own family. I don’t expect society to understand autism, but surely families would make the effort. If they happen to be of the “we don’t speak of that” generation, no, they don’t. Another rule I live by is: “Never let a bad education stop you from learning on your own, by yourself, what it is you wish to know.” I can count the number of good teachers I had on one hand. Sad, but true. But at least I can read. I must have learned to when I was very young, because I don’t remember a time when I couldn’t. I find I prefer to learn things on my own by reading about them than from conventional learning. Auto didactic? Possibly. But if you can read, you can learn by yourself. Use it or lose it. I can’t believe there are people out there (usually neurotypicals) who haven’t read a book since leaving school.How empty their lives must be.

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