Routine and order – aspects of life that I crave more of as an auDHDer! I can instantly think of at least two autistic family members (who aren’t also ADHDers) who have both of these fantastic skills in bucketloads, for everything, every day of their lives. Get up at the same time, complete the same routines by the same time each day, refer to their To Do list throughout the day, marking them off until the list is done. Minimal social engagement, as is their choice, and respect for those activities that do fulfil them. Everything is predictable, everything is under control. It’s the stuff of fantasy for many of us.

I’m kind of torn…I think I’d lose my mind if I had to adhere to completely rigid routines but I can certainly see the appeal as I procrastinate, wander, stand in doorways wondering why I’m there, miss vital appointments and bill deadlines, food that’s very much gone past the cooked and ready to be removed from the oven stage… you might identify with this. Or maybe routine is the order of the day for you.

My version of routine and order is to refuse to participate in the wider world, unless it’s on my terms. My bubble is safe and, whilst it can’t prevent shock news and unexpected behaviours by others, when I am in my bubble, I am controlling how much all of that can have a negative impact upon me. This is something that I’ve only really realised this year, the year when I am finally ‘allowed’ to understand why I struggle. It’s empowering. It can feel selfish but it’s just self-preservation. I’ve always realised I seem odd for choosing my need for solitude and fulfilment over my need to earn money. It means I have been a low earner for my entire adult life. I’m still carrying around my ever-increasing student loan from 25 years ago as I’ve never earned enough to have to start paying it back! I now finally understand what that is all about. I would love a paid job that understood me, I really would. I just don’t think that job exists. And, based on the shockingly high unemployment figures for autistic people, I am not alone.

Autistic people thrive on routine and order because so much about the world, that isn’t designed by or for us, is terrifying and unpredictable. We create our own miniature worlds where we have some control to counteract that. It keeps the chaos at bay. The smaller our worlds become, the more control that we feel we have. It’s no wonder that so many of us find comfort in solitude at home, being with our animals, engaging in our special interests. It’s no wonder that so many of us are either unemployed or self-employed. Employment brings unlimited unknowns – just the thought and memory of being employed by others makes my chest tighten.

Change and The Unexpected – the two words that cause dread for so many of us. Nothing makes my heart and stomach twist like those two aspects of life. There are lots of little things that we can do to reduce the impact of these two horrors. Perhaps even more importantly than that is to know that it’s okay to need that routine, it’s okay to have our own little tightly controlled and ordered worlds. They soothe us. We don’t need to be like everyone else, we’re not hurting anyone, we’re just surviving.