The Concept of Time

Some of us autistic’s love numbers. How they repeat like a pattern, how they add and subtract. I hate numbers. They scare and confuse me, so I don’t have the number loving mindset. I am also bad at maths.

Relating to numbers, is time. Time can mean various things to autistic’s. It can mean, routine, ritual, a pattern, a structure, progression. Time can also help plan future schedules and give an idea of distance between days.

Some may use time as a way to organise their day effectively.

Others may use time as a method of escape. Looking at the milliseconds at the digital clock, counting each number…

But, what if time slips away from us? How do we respond? Some autistic’s completely meltdown when their plans go AWOL, or they run out of time.

Here are some of my methods on coping with time management and planning.

  • Rigidity has it’s disadvantages

If you’re autistic and you have a rigid mindset, this one is really tough! I do have these rigid schedule moments, and when a schedule goes flying out the window, it leaves me either stressed, freaked out or even unmotivated for the rest of the day. I’d give these tips below a try. Bear in mind, most of these are based on my personal experiences so some techniques don’t work for everyone.

  • Set an alarm.

When I meet up with friends, I usually have a time limit on when I need to go home (either it’s to go home at a decent time or it’s the maximum capacity of my socialising energy). I set an alarm on my phone to the time that I “need” to leave. I do this because I am notorious for looking at the time constantly. I get fidgety if I don’t know. However, I want to make the most out of this social event so I decide to make an alarm, so I don’t need to think about time till then. It works rather well. It’s also one reason why I don’t wear a watch.

  • Add estimates

Let’s say, you have a friend who’s always bad at timekeeping. Yes, it’s super stressful. I’ve been there, but if it’s for smaller events and not for waiting on a train that’s due to depart, then there is a way around it. My method is to add estimates. If a friend says they are arriving in 15 mins but arrive an hour later. I usually add an hour every time they let me know a specific time, that way. I don’t feel as panicky and they have some “leeway time” to arrive to.

The disadvantage is when they do arrive later than the “leeway time”. I do have moments of panic, but in a good mindset, its best to try and contact them first before you jump to conclusions on where they are. Some days this can be very difficult!

  • Look into alternative thinking/Have a back up plan

What is your plan if they are very late? I recommend having a back up activity just in case. If you’re meeting up with a friend and they are taking ages. I’d wait in a cafe and text them to let them know that they can meet me there.

Another scenario is that instead of worrying why they are late, it’s probably best to find a distraction. Even if it’s just browsing on a smartphone for a bit, or window shopping. If the meetup is cancelled, it’s probably best to have that back up plan you had, even if it’s just s simple thing like getting lunch.

  • Seek support

If the concept of time is consuming your life and generating unnecessary anxiety. I recommend that you should seek support. Wherever it’s from your family, carer, friends or peers. Time can be pretty tough for some autistic’s, so it’s good to get as much support as possible.

There are many methods/mindsets of time that I’ve not looked into. Time management is just scratching the surface. I primarily looked into time management as I feel that it can be a useful skill for those who are struggling! Travelling can be stressful, but when you have some coping mechanisms, it can make it a little easier.

What are your coping mechanisms for time management?

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