I am a college student with Asperger’s and I need some advice.

Daily decisions really wear me out and I am incredibly bad at making them. For instance, I had a wisdom tooth ache and I didn’t realize that it was causing all the health problems I’ve been having for years until I connected the dots yesterday. Also, I had trouble on deciding when to schedule my dental appointment because it would conflict with school. So, in making that decision, I had to weigh my own level of pain, the severity of the ailment and my personal schedule. It really drained me.

Also, I have a lot of trouble making daily snap decisions, such as whether to have lunch with friends or alone, where to study, what I should do with someone new I’ve just met, what I should do about an event/unexpected social plans that just cropped up but that may conflict with other errands that are in my schedule, when I should answer email or check my Facebook account, how I should behave when confronted with certain unique situations I’ve never encountered before, etc. etc.

I really don’t want this problem to keep me from living the life I want to live or stop me from doing what I want. Do you have any advice for me? How do you do it? Any tips would be extremely appreciated!

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4 replies
  1. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    I have all the same problems you have listed in this email.

    For everyday things make a schedule and stick to it. For example, schedule when you eat with friends when you don’t. And when you check email, etc. It’s hard to stick to a schedule because for us, transitions are hard, but it’s very important for you to stick to a schedule so you don’t have to make decisions all day. Also, the more you can make every day’s schedule the same, the more comfortable you’ll feel about transitions – you’ll learn tricks to get yourself from one task to another without getting lost.

    As for the medical problems, what you describe is so common for people with Asperger’s. I could make a list of things in my life that were very similar to you. Here are two posts.

    http://blog.penelopetrunk.com/2009/01/05/7-things-to-consider-before-launching-a-startup/

    http://blog.penelopetrunk.com/2011/10/11/techniques-for-looking-normal/

    I think it might just be how we are. Most people put pain at the top of their list of things to deal with, but we don’t do that intuitively. I don’t know what else to say. I try to make doctor’s appointments regularly, but honestly, I have no idea how most people are so good at taking care of medical problems.

    I think we have so many things we need to try to normalize that we have to pick the most important. And there are everyday issues that I really need to get better at, so the medical issues are not that important because they don’t come up every day: Asperger’s triage.

    Penelope

  2. Clark
    Clark says:

    When I know the result of my decision is not going to have a large impact on my life I use random.org or a dice app on my smartphone. (Or actual dice that I sometimes carry with me). This is not the right option for everything (probably not medical issues) but prioritizing a daily to do list or keeping away indecision paralysis in the peanut butter aisle it works well.

  3. Emma
    Emma says:

    I do not have Asperger’s, but have worked in Operations and Logistics for many years on both a large and small scale. Penelope’s advice about sticking a schedule is very important. A few other rules I have for myself:

    • Always have a running to-do list that you can access at any time. Do not leave your personal to do list at home.

    • When unsure, rank tasks by urgency and always do the next most urgent thing on your list *that fits into your schedule.*

    • Forever in adult life, there will be errands you need to run that can only be done during normal business hours. This includes doctor’s appointments. You need to have at least one slot in your schedule every week during a weekday when you handle these types of things. Like in-person banking, going to the DMV or taking your cell phone to get repaired. If possible, build a 4-hour open chunk of time between Monday-Friday from 8am-5pm into your class schedule next semester. Then when you are making appointments, that is the time you have available. If there are no openings during that window this week, ask for the same time next week. For the weeks that you don’t have an appointment scheduled during that block, that’s when you do non-urgent errands that are hard to make time for otherwise, like getting your oil changed or buying more AA batteries.

    • There will be times when everything gets messed up and you are way off your schedule. Don’t try to redesign your schedule every time this happens. The schedule design is rarely the problem. The problem is that life is actually chaotic and not everything fits in neatly 100% of the time. So, no design will be perfect, but the schedule still helps tremendously. When things go bananas, just start on schedule again tomorrow.

  4. Pat Sommer
    Pat Sommer says:

    Friends?
    It’s great to have a friend to advise on legal/financial matters and a social-butterfly friend with help getting along with others; deference to a true trusted friend regarding your well-being is pure gold.

    I’ve had that. Now I am that. Hope you find that right person.

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