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Household Chores and Autism

Household Chores and Autism

I thought this was such a great perspective…And, it is only one perspective. This is a commentary from a young adult on the autism spectrum:

“Neurotypicals who live with autistics, have you ever wondered why a sinkful of dishes just hangs out for days? Have you ever gotten irritated because unfolded laundry will stay that way for a week on the bottom stair landing? Have you scratched your head at the dust and dirt all over the kitchen floor that STILL hasn’t been swept?

You don’t get it. There are chores to be done, there are unpleasant SMELLS in the house, yet you seem to get no help at all! Why?

You’re not specifically asking for it.

Someone commented on one of my posts the other day about something I’d never heard before. She called it, ‘autonomous initiative.’ There’s no dictionary definition for it, but from putting the two words together, it seems to mean, ‘the ability to see a task that needs doing on your own and then doing said task without any prompting.’

Most of us can’t do that. We don’t have autonomous initiative.

This could be for several reasons:

1) It’s not a part of our routine, so it doesn’t exist other than background noise, if you will.

2) We may see the dishes, the laundry, the dirt, etc., but those things do not trigger any type of response other than a passing notice (if that).

3) Something has always been done for us, and now that we are a certain age, you think we should be taking on the responsibility ourselves, but nobody told us.

Again, unless we are given explicit instructions and told to do something, it will not even enter our minds to do it. The thought simply doesn’t form.

(Apparently, NT (neurotypical) people just know what to do in these situations…which fascinates me, by the way.)

Autistics do not.

Now, having said that, household chores can become a part of our routine, and we will do them the way we are taught and according to our ability with little to no variation.

We can make lists, set reminders, or just do certain chores on certain days. As our loved ones, it will not always be necessary to stand over us forever to do tell us to do something once it becomes a part of our routine. We’ll usually just do it.

However, and this is very important, as soon as the environment changes, our ability to take initiative disappears.

For example, if we’re at home, we may know the dishes get done every night after supper and the trash goes to the curb on Wednesday nights (I still have a reminder on my own phone for that, and I’ve been living in the same place for over 3 years). However, if we are anywhere else; grandma’s house, a party next door, an event, etc., if there’s something that needs to be done, we will NOT have the faintest clue what that is unless we are told.

And if we panic and just do something to do it, we will more than likely cause more challenges than we fix because we can’t ‘read the room’ and figure out exactly what to do.

Autistics, do you have trouble with autonomous initiative? Neurotypicals, have you experienced incidents like this with the autistic person in your life? Did reading this post help?”

Reading this post helped me.

It helped me understand my son a little better.

Why can’t he ever remember to feed the dog? It’s his chore.

Because when the dog is hungry, she sits in “her spot” in the kitchen.

He sits in his spot in the living room. A completely different room.

And, he does not have a timer set on his phone.

And, why doesn’t he put his dishes in the sink at Grandma’s house like he does at our house?

Now, I know why not!

Timers and an explanation or two are in order! My kid can adjust his routine. It’s just a matter of making things a part of the old routine!

Love this article! Thanks for explaining it so well.

Household Chores and Autism


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