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Asperger's plus ADD: 50 Tips for Adults on the Autism Spectrum


If you have Asperger’s (high functioning autism) and ADD, everything from paying the bills on time to keeping up with family and work can be super stressful. Your symptoms may lead to trouble making deadlines, extreme procrastination, and impulsive behavior. Also, you may feel that family and friends don’t understand how difficult you have it.

Luckily, there are strategies you can learn to help get your symptoms of Asperger’s (AS) and ADD under control. You can develop techniques that help you work more efficiently, improve your daily habits, increase organization, interact better with others, and learn to recognize and use your strengths. Change won’t happen in one day, though.

The following self-help techniques require practice, patience, and a positive attitude:

  1. After someone gives verbal instructions, say them aloud to be sure you got it right.
  2. All those great concepts that keep popping into your head – jot them down on paper for later consideration. 
  3. Allot yourself limited amounts of time for each task and use a timer or alarm to alert you when your time is up. For longer tasks, consider setting an alarm to go off at regular intervals to keep you productive and aware of how much time is going by.
  4. Ask yourself what is the most important task you need to accomplish, and then order your other tasks after that one. 
  5. Ask yourself what you need on a daily basis, and find storage bins or closets for things you don’t. Designate specific areas for things like keys, bills, and other items that can be easily misplaced. Throw away things you don’t need. 
  6. Avoid caffeine late in the day.
  7. Avoid getting sidetracked by sticking to your schedule, using a timer to enforce it if necessary.
  8. Avoid sugar as much as possible.
  9. Break down large projects or tasks into smaller, manageable steps.
  10. Choose something vigorous and fun that you can stick with, like a team sport or working out with a friend.
  11. Color-coding can be very useful to people with AS and ADD. Manage forgetfulness by writing everything down. 
  12. Create a predictable and quiet “bedtime” routine.
  13. Cut up all but one credit card. When you shop, make a list of what you need and stick to it.
  14. Eat fewer carbohydrates, while increasing your protein intake.
  15. Eat small meals throughout day.
  16. Effective use of a day planner or a calendar on your smartphone or computer can help you remember appointments and deadlines. With electronic calendars, you can also set up automatic reminders so scheduled events don’t slip your mind. 
  17. Exercise by lifting weights several times a week.
  18. Exercise in the form of cardio is great, too – but not within an hour of bedtime.
  19. Face your desk towards a wall and keep your workplace free of clutter. To discourage interruptions, you could even hang a "Do Not Disturb" sign. If possible, let voicemail pick up your phone calls and return them later. If noise distracts you, consider noise-canceling headphones or a sound machine.
  20. Free services (e.g., Mint and Manilla) can help you keep track of your finances and accounts. Both services take some time to set up, but once you’ve linked your accounts they automatically update. Manilla consolidates your statements and bills from all of your accounts into one place. Mint tracks all of your bank account and credit card transactions, and also offers budgeting and other financial analysis tools. 
  21. Health professionals can help you manage symptoms of AS and ADD, but they can only do so much. You’re the one living with the problems, so you’re the one who can make the most difference in overcoming them. 
  22. If you don’t have your own office, you may be able to take your work to an empty office or conference room. If you are in a lecture hall or conference, try sitting close to the speaker and away from people who chat mid-meeting. 
  23. If you prefer not to set up automatic payments, you can still make the process of bill paying easier with electronic reminders. You may be able to set up text or email reminders through online banking or you can schedule them in your calendar app. 
  24. If you're attending a meeting, lecture, workshop, or another gathering that requires close attention, ask for an advance copy of the relevant materials (e.g., a meeting agenda or lecture outline). At the meeting, use the written notes to guide your active listening and note taking. Writing as you listen will help you stay focused on the speaker’s words. 
  25. Impulsiveness can lead men and women with AS and ADD to agree to too many projects at work or make too many social engagements. However, a packed schedule can leave you feeling overwhelmed and affect the quality of your work. Turning things down may improve your ability to accomplish tasks, keep social dates, and live a healthier lifestyle. Check your schedule first before committing to something new.
  26. Increase stress relief by walking outdoors—people with AS and ADD often benefit from sunshine and green surroundings.
  27. Make use of lists and notes to keep track of regularly scheduled tasks, projects, deadlines, and appointments. If you decide to use a daily planner, keep all lists and notes inside it. You also have many options for use on your smartphone or computer. Search for “to do” apps or task managers.
  28. Men and women with AS and ADD are notoriously bad at estimating how long it will take to do something. For every thirty minutes of time you think it will take you to get someplace or complete a task, give yourself a cushion by AS and adding ten minutes. 
  29. Minimize the amount of paper you have to deal with. Request electronic statements and bills instead of paper copies. You can also reduce junk mail by opting out of the Direct Marketing Association's (DMA) Mail Preference Service.
  30. Money management requires budgeting, planning, and organization. However, most common systems of money management don’t tend to work for people with AS and ADD because they require too much time, too much paper, and too much attention to detail. But if you create your own system that is both simple and consistent, you can get on top of your finances and put a stop to overspending, overdue bills, and penalties for missed deadlines.
  31. More important tasks should be done first. Set deadlines for everything, even if they are self-imposed. 
  32. Relaxation exercise (e.g., meditation, yoga, tai chi) can teach you to better control your attention and impulses.
  33. Set aside 5 to 10 minutes a day to clear your desk and organize your paperwork. Experiment with storing things inside your desk or in bins so that they don’t clutter your workspace as unnecessary distractions. 
  34. Set aside a few minutes each day to deal with the mail, preferably as soon as you bring it inside. It helps to have a designated spot where you can sort the mail and either trash it, file it, or act on it.
  35. Shop with cash only—leave your checkbook and credit cards at home.
  36. Signing up for online banking can turn the hit-or-miss process of balancing your budget into a thing of the past. Your online account will list all deposits and payments, tracking your balance automatically, to the penny, every day. You can also set up automatic payments for your regular monthly bills and log on as needed to pay irregular and occasional ones. The best part: no misplaced envelopes or late fees.
  37. Stay away from places where you’re likely to spend too much money.
  38. Stick to a regular sleep-wake schedule, even on weekends.
  39. Take a hot shower or bath just before bed.
  40. The effects of AS and ADD may have led to you and others labeling you this way, but the truth is that you are not unmotivated or unintelligent—you have a disorder that gets in the way of certain normal functions. In fact, men and women with AS and ADD often have to find very smart ways to compensate for their disorder. 
  41. The hallmark traits of ADD—inattention and distractibility—make organization perhaps the biggest challenge men and women with the disorder face. If you have AS and ADD, the prospect of getting organized, whether it be at work or home, may leave you feeling overwhelmed. However, you can learn to break tasks down into smaller steps and follow a systematic approach to organization. By implementing various structures and routines, and taking advantage of tools (e.g., daily planners and reminders), you can maintain organization and control clutter.
  42. Throw away catalogs as they arrive.
  43. To prevent restlessness and fidgeting, go ahead and move around—at the appropriate times in the right places. As long as you are not disturbing others, taking a walk or even jumping up and down during a meeting break, for example, can help you pay attention later on.
  44. Use a calculator to keep a running total when shopping (hint: there’s one on your cell phone).
  45. Use a wristwatch or highly visible wall or desk clock to help you keep track of time. When you start a task, make a note of the time by saying it out loud or writing it down.
  46. Use dividers or separate file folders for different types of documents (e.g., medical records, receipts, income statements, etc.). Label and color-code your files so that you can find what you need quickly.
  47. While it is true that there is no cure for AS or ADD, there is a lot you can do to reduce the problems it causes. Once you become accustomed to using strategies to help yourself, you may find that managing your symptoms becomes second nature.
  48. While medication can help some people manage the symptoms AS and ADD, it is not a cure, nor the only solution. If used at all, it should be taken alongside other treatments or self-help strategies.
  49. Write down appointments for fifteen minutes earlier than they really are. Set up reminders to ensure you leave on time and make sure you have everything you need ahead of time so you’re not frantically looking for your keys or phone when it’s time to go.
  50. You can avoid forgetfulness, clutter, and procrastination by filing papers, cleaning up messes, or returning phone calls immediately, not sometime in the future. If a task can be done in two minutes or less, do it on the spot, rather than putting it off for later.

Here’s to a better life with AS and ADD!

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2 comments:

  1. I have both ASD and ADD. This list is very helpful. I will do my best to implement it. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I feel like I just found the Holy Grail! AS and ADD...that's me. Thank you SO much for this list...I'm an unorganized mess.

    ReplyDelete

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