Following on from our life hacks series, we reached out to our community to ask for any tips or advice they would like to share with fellow autistic people, when faced with too much information. Here are their life hacks, which we hope may help some of you.

Read our Too Much Information top tips to understand more about autism, the person, and the change you can make. 

Social anxiety

It’s okay to remove yourself from a social situation if it becomes overwhelming

Photo of Katy GroughMy social skills tend to fluctuate and I am very aware of when I am not comfortable in a social setting. I trust my gut instinct at all times and if I feel uncomfortable or anxious, I will often remove myself from the situation as quickly as possible. I have been able to get by with my social skills like many other females on the spectrum - it's often a case of 'fake it until you make it' but I try to remember that faking isn't always possible and that it's OK to be on my own and to not want to socialise. I think it's very easy to feel pressured to be social all of the time but sometimes having some space to recuperate is the best solution. Katy Gough

Take time out if you need a break from mingling

Photo of John ClarkMy most recent example of this is at The National Autistic Society Autism Uncut Film Awards ceremony, where a short film I made was selected as a finalist in a category. Hosted by BAFTA, it was a very formal and quite frankly posh affair! Not anything I was used to! The mingling before and after the ceremony was where I found myself the most socially anxious. I felt overwhelmed. There were people here I had no idea who they were. Though the music was of a ‘jazzy’ affair (no boom boom nightclub!), and the atmosphere was Autism friendly and relaxed, but it still didn’t deter my lack of confidence and social anxiety in the situation. Despite there being supportive chaperones at the ceremony, simply found somewhere to sit and watch everybody else mingle. Even without the dagger eyes at said pre and post-ceremony mingling, taking this breather and sitting down helped me to resurface, before ‘diving back in’ where I simply walked around and (in time) had people come up to me and talk. A similar resolution happens in different scenarios. John Clark

 

What will you do to support autistic people with social anxiety?

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Processing time

To process written information, highlight words to come back to, or to be read to you electronically 

Photo of Emily DavidsonI’ve found that if I'm working on something for a long time I will keep coming back to it. For example if I'm learning a script I will highlight my words then I will keep coming back to it or sometimes I will use my iPad to read words to me first. Emily Davidson

  

 

 

Take your time. You don’t have to do everything alone – ask a parent/friend to translate the information for you

Photo of Luis Barry-RicoSlow information is good information. Read information and take your time, never rush, it's when you rush that all the information becomes blurred. Another thing to keep in mind is you don't have to do it alone, you can have a friend or family member to help translate it. Sometimes if you talk to the person who's given the information and just explain that you didn't understand and need them to elaborate a little more. They won't know till you ask. The key thing is to never be afraid. Luis Barry-Rico

  


What will you do to support autistic people with processing time?

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Meltdowns

Chew on a sweet to distract yourself

Photo of Alex MarshallHave a sweet. Trust me, having a sweet is a great coping mechanism. It tastes good, and is something to concentrate on. Sweets you can chew or suck are the best for this. Alex Marshall

 

  

 

If you’re with someone, get them to ask you questions around one of your special interests

Photo of Connor WardI've found a technique for calming me down which has had a 99% success rate. Whoever is with me asks me questions about a special interest of mine - e.g. asking me to name every Jessie J song. I believe this helps because it's information that's embedded into me so it doesn't actually require much thought. Once I've listed a few my brain gets confident and the more I list the calmer I get. I believe this technique is all about trying to get your brain to put all of its attention to one task, and one task only, to kind of 'reboot' it. Connor Ward

 

If you have urges to hurt yourself or smash things, wear a hairband around your wrist to gently twang

Photo of Kenneth ClaydonIf I don’t have a grasp on myself I try and direct my frustrations to something that can take it, such as myself. I wear a hairband on my right arm and I twang that repeatedly until the feelings induced by a meltdown subside as a result of gaining awareness of myself and my surroundings. Kenneth Clayden

  

 

 

 

What will you do to support autistic people with meltdowns?

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Unexpected changes

Ask for information about the changes

If an unexpected change arises I like to be informed with as much information as possible about what is now going to happen and just as importantly why it has to be this way. It also helps to be told when 'normal scheduling will resume'. Knowing how long it is until you are back on track can really help because then you can just work through that time until you know it's all going to be good again. Connor Ward

Make your day visual, by using notebooks or the bullet journaling method

Photo of Megan RhiannonI often find big things/new things/changes very distracting which can affect my memory and set my abilities back. So having my bullet journal generally helps me keep track of things during times when my memory is extremely poor. It’s a space where I can break a big change down into as many steps as I need (even if that's hundreds). This helps me feel like I know what’s going on, a bit more grounded and less panicked/confused. I often rewrite plans over and over to help myself process them properly and that definitely helps me feel better about new and unexpected things. I can process and break things down as many times and in as many different ways as I need to feel better.

This gives me the space to draw things out and communicate things to myself in a way I can understand easily without feeling like I’m looking at too much visual clutter (like in a store-bought planner with a set layout). It, therefore, helps me feel calm during my day and feel, not only less overloaded in general, but less like I’m swimming against an overbearing current.
Megan Rhiannon

Carry sunglasses and earplugs with you

If everything is seeming too bright I will wear sunglasses whether that's outside in the sun or in a bright supermarket. They just bring it down a notch and quite often people don't even notice you are using them out of the standard situation. If it's too loud I have these brilliant silicon ear pieces which are so subtle you can't even notice them they are called EarPeace. They have made so much difference it’s unreal. They are made for musicians but serve brilliantly as Autism ear plugs because they are more subtle and don't muffle the quality of sound anywhere near as much. Connor Ward

If your clothing is bothering you, find a private space like a bathroom to pop in to remove the piece of clothing for a minute and readjust

If I'm in a busy place with loads of people that brush past me it can make me get very itchy and my clothes become very itchy for me. I just like to get myself to either a loo and take my clothing in the itchy area off for a minute just to re as justice. It works! Connor Ward

 

What will you do to support autistic people with unexpected changes?

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Everyone experiences autism differently. These are just a few ideas, and they might not work for everyone. If you’d like to share your idea with us, please email tmi@nas.org.uk.