Many Autistic people have behaviors that make them appear lazy to others. They might play video games, watch TV or do crafts for hours to relieve stress and escape negative feelings and thoughts, or may not get things done, because they are so busy trying to function in a world that was not made for neurodiversity. They may forget to feed their pets, take medication, practice self-care, complete assignments and so much more. The everyday struggles with Autism, make it tough to navigate life’s daily challenges and responsibilities.
How Do I Help Myself or a Loved One to Stay Motivated?
Many Autistic people have strong special interests. Use them as a reward for completing tasks and as subjects in lessons. For example, if the special interest is the Super Mario video game franchise, you might ask, “How many warp pipes are in each level?”. “How many Goombas, Koopa Troopas, Beetles, and Spinies are there in each level?”, or “How many coins and item blocks are there”, or “What does Mario need to do to advance to the next level?”
In addition to encouraging you or your loved one to practice counting, this also teaches attention to detail, which is important in most jobs. Another idea is counting how many times you need to hit a boss in a game until they are defeated. Video games require attention to detail in order to complete.
What if I or a Loved one is Struggling to Get Motivated?
What if you or your loved one is spending all of their time watching television, playing video games, sleeping all day, and not getting anything important done? Set clear rules about when those activities are allowed and use them as a reward. If you or a loved one is living with other members and pets, then it needs to be made clear that everyone in the house has assigned chores and are expected to participate in family activities. It needs to be insisted that you or your loved one cannot sit in their bedroom all day and needs to be aware of what is going on in the house, outside, and in the neighborhood and community.
Make it clear that there are certain times that you or your loved one needs to stay off their devices and be productive. Or maybe they need to step away from their favorite activities and be productive during this time. Chores and assignments aren’t going to complete themselves so someone has to do them. Tell them or yourself, “I know you enjoy that game or activity, but in this household, you have responsibilities that need to be taken care of before you can continue doing what you want”. If your loved one still refuses to comply, then the favorite activity should not be allowed to continue until the tasks are completed.
How Do I Stay Motivated?
- Set alarms on phone, tablet, or computer to complete tasks and assignments
- Make a daily schedule either on paper or a favorite device that you like to carry with you.
- Make daily to-do lists either digital or on paper
- Set clear expectations and consequences if those expectations are not met
- Take away devices for a while if they are getting in the way of tasks and assignments.
- Have you or your loved one take responsibility for waking up on time, with a proper alarm clock, instead of their phone.
- Take devices away at night and return them after morning chores and routines are completed.
- Each night after devices are turned in, have your loved one use the rest of the evening to lay out their clothes for the next day, make their lunch (if they take their own lunch to school and work), pack their work or school devices, notebooks, pens, pencils, smartphone, erasers, textbooks, planners and other important necessities for school and work. This eliminates the “I can’t find it” and the meltdowns that go along with it. If you put the next day’s clothes and what you need to take, in the same place each evening, it will take the work out of getting ready for work or school.
- It is not recommended to have a television in the bedroom for teens and children. If you choose to allow one, it is recommended to set a sleep timer and take the remotes at night and put them with the turned in devices.
- Autistic people are less motivated with a lack of sleep. They cannot perform at their best when not well-rested.
- Set clear rules about meals and bedtime and make them device-free. Meals are best enjoyed when there are no devices at the table and the blue light from screens can keep you awake.
- Introduce creative activities, such as painting, sewing, crochet, and other arts and crafts, and make some days “device-free days”. It is very important to have days to recharge without screens.
- If you or a loved one is at least 16 years of age, start thinking about what type of employment they would like and help them take the necessary steps to achieve those goals.
Many Autistic people are terrified of the idea of having a job. They might be afraid of making mistakes that may get them fired or might have meltdowns at work and get in trouble. They may have social anxiety that makes communicating with others difficult. Autistic people should have a job that they can be comfortable with Having a job allows for financial independence and stability and teaches them to work for the things they want, how to own a home or apartment, as well as many other great things.
It is very important for Autistic adults to be independent because their parents or guardian will not be around forever to take care of them. It is very important to take the steps to be independent and know how to do as much as you can on your own.
Many Autistic people struggle with disorganization and messiness, but ask yourself or a loved one, “Do you really want to live in chaos and be embarrassed to have others come over?” Taking each day out of the week to clean is a good idea. Pick some of these tasks each day:
- Sort papers
- Sort Games/videos
- Sort Books
- Sort Clothes
- Clean our fridge/freezer
- Dust/vacuum/mop entire house
- Clean Kitchen
- Clean Laundry room
- Clean office
- Clean Garage/wash car
- Cut grass
- Trim bushes
- Water garden/pull weeds
- Clean bathrooms
- Vacuum stairs
- Clean pet cages/bowls
- Take out trash/recycling
- Plan recipes for the week
If you choose 3 or 4 of these items every day, it will be less overwhelming to keep your house clean and it will be part of your daily routine.
To overcome messiness, pick one of these to do each day and live by these 2 rules:
- Have a place for everything
- If you can’t find a place for it, donate or toss it
Catergorize your items by:
- Bathroom/Personal Care
- Video games/videos
- Writing Supplies
- School Supplies
- Work Supplies
- Puzzles/Board Games
Take time to sort these items and donate and toss anything you don’t want or has missing pieces. Clutter can take over your life and hold you back from being productive. I hope this blog helps motivate you, and there will be a blog on getting organized in the future. What are you doing to stay motivated?