As an autistic adult, I do what I can to work with my brain.
Before I knew I’m autistic, I would get upset and judge myself for not being able to enjoy or even tolerate the same activities as other people (for example, I hate the feeling of a shower on my skin).
Now that I understand myself better, I accept more of my differences and try to accommodate them (for example, I usually take a bath instead of a shower).
Some of my adjustments have also been a matter of privilege.
I was able to restructure my work schedule because I run my own art therapy private practice. I see a limited number of therapy clients a day to respect and honor my energetic capacity.
I absolutely hate grocery stores and making meal plans, so I sometimes order Blue Apron, a delivery service that sends recipes and the necessary foods to make them.
I pay a personal assistant for three hours a week to help me with tasks that I find exhausting (such as running errands, finding and wrapping gifts, etc.).
These are things that help me to experience my life with more ease and avoid overstimulation and the accompanying exhaustion.
If I had unlimited financial means, I can dream up many more ways I could make my autistic life easier:
I would pay for someone to come take my dog on a long walk every morning so that I could get his needs met and capitalize on my best time of day for writing (my mind is most creative in the morning).
I would hire a personal stylist/shopper with an understanding of high sensitivity. I would also ensure that she was grounded in beliefs of sustainability and supporting small businesses. I would have her find soft, comfortable clothing for my work life, as well as my personal life.
I would buy multiples of the things I adore, such as my noise canceling headphones. I’d leave a pair at work, one at home, and one for traveling.
I’d also pay for week-long getaways to quiet, secluded cabins in the woods
Unlimited financial means is not the reality for the majority of people though. As autistic individuals, we need to make decisions within the reality that we live.
When it comes to making personal accommodations and my limited budget, I focus on the areas that impact me most:
Sensory stimulation. I do everything in my power to respect my body’s sensory sensitivity. I position my therapy chair away from direct sunlight. I carry sunglasses everywhere. I wear noise canceling headphones on trips. I only buy clothes that are soft and comfortable. If I encounter a smell that will give me a headache, I excuse myself.
Avoid Energy Drains. Social groups and crowded places are exhausting to me. I avoid them when possible. When it isn’t possible, I place a time limit on how long I will be there and let others know. I also always have an exit strategy. I also plan for downtime afterward.
Downtime. While I love deep conversations with people, I have energetic limits. It is crucial for me to have downtime every day where I do not need to attend to another person. This usually looks like me doing a puzzle or creating art in the evening. I also ensure I have at least one day a week that has absolutely no plans. They are the absolute best.
Self-Acceptance. I didn’t know I was autistic until I was in my 30’s. I used to think there was something wrong with me. I was embarrassed to make requests because I thought I was being “too sensitive.” Now I accept my differences and simply state what I need. For example, I told my sister, “Wait, can we pause the conversation for a minute. My mind is racing and I’m not able to focus fully on what you’re saying.” I write more about this in my essay I Stopped Seeing Myself as Broken When I Learned I’m Autistic.
I’d love to hear what things you have done to support yourself as an autistic adult, as well as what supports you dream of.
If you need help structuring a life that supports your autistic life,
I provide therapy for autistic individuals (both medically diagnosed and self-diagnosed).