I live at the intersection between ADHD and Autism. While I love my neurodivergent brain (most of the time), there is absolutely no doubt that I have to organize my life strategically to stay on top of #adulting. Not going to lie, even though I have extensive coping systems in place, some stuff falls through the cracks. I’m a bit harder on myself than I should be at times, but try to be kind to myself when I do make mistakes. My most prominent symptoms are: both short attention span and hyper-focusing, time-blindness, executive functioning challenges, special interests, “spoon” limitations, and coordination challenges. This article details the apps and products that best help me manage my neurodivergent (AuDHD) life.
First, a couple of disclaimers:
- Neurodiversity and disability are a spectrum. I’m not sure how accessible these products are (esp. fonts) to Dyslexics, alternative communication devices, vision and dramatic hearing impairment, screen readers, etc. I would be VERY interested to learn more from individuals who have insight!
- While I will mention a few specific brands or products, I am not sponsored by any of them, and you may find that different brands are more helpful to you.
Here’s what works for me:
- Electronic Assistant Systems (i.e. Google Home, Alexa, Siri) – I use my systems constantly. I can tell them when to wake me up in the morning (they serve as my alarm). I use them as speakers to play music while I’m working and doing chores. Every morning as I sign into work, I look at my calendar and set an alarm 5-minutes before each meeting. On screen alerts do not grab my attention when I am hyper-focused, but my alarm (turned to level 10) is impossible to ignore. An essential feature of Google Home (my system) is telling it to “Ring My Phone”. I lose my phone countless times a day (ADHD for the win), and the “Ring My Phone” feature makes the phone ring at full volume no matter if it’s on silent. As long as it is on, it will ring. It can set timers, give weather updates, and more.
- Electronic Planner (Artful Agenda) – My electronic planner system, an app I found via Facebook ads called Artful Agenda, has been truly life altering for me and my executive functioning skills. Besides keeping my appointments, pet appointments, my partner’s appointments, and plans all in one place, it has list and note taking functions. It truly has many of the features, including stickers, of any paper planners.The BIGGEST game changing feature for me is the repetitive tasks. You can set a task to repeat on any time interval, which is revolutionary for my time-blindness. I’m able to see on my day view when it’s time to do iterative things like give pet flea medications (monthly), replace my toothbrush (monthly), replace litter (monthly), water my airplants (every three days), water my carnivorous plants (weekly), and more. My plants are rebounding, my cats are waking us up in the morning less because their food dispensers are filled on time, my personal care has improved – I cannot stress enough how helpful this function is.
- Tile – Sound Tags for commonly lost objects – So I can’t actually hear my Tiles. I’m too deaf for that, even at loudest available volume. BUT the sound attracts my cats (if my fiancée’s ears aren’t available). My cats always follow the sound, and I follow the cats to my missing objects.
- Candles – I use candles religiously while I’m working. They help my neurodivergent brain differentiate between “working office” and “fun office”. Many people preach keeping your office away from fun, to psychologically help you maintain a “focus” mindset in certain areas. Since I live in a two bedroom apartment (one of which is the office), so only have so much division, candles help me make that differentiation between work/play spaces.
- Meetup.com Platform – I’m the owner of a Meetup.com group in the Triangle, NC area, which I started a little over a year ago. I wanted to make friends who shared my interests and could go to the events and venues I wanted to check out. The benefit of owning and organizing my own group is that it’s helped me meet women who share my interests in art, sustainability, exploring, and service. It’s a platform for people wanting to meet new people and friends, making it perfect for the purposes I set out for. I’ve met several more friends through my time on the platform, as well as checked out new places all over the Triangle.As organizer, though, I go a step further to make my group as neurodivergent friendly as within my control. Where other groups focused on busier areas, I do a number of events in my apartment or in quiet parks. I can control when/where we go and what we do, so it’s inline with my needs as an Autistic and ADHD person. I set specific criteria for cancellation best on weather and RSVP numbers 24 hours in advance, so I (and other neurodivergent attendees) have time to prepare for any change in plans.
- Money – Money can CERTAINLY buy happiness, saying otherwise is a privilege. I hope this article serves as an example of disability tax, and shows how access to money can greatly improve quality life, in addition to helping out some fellow neurodivergent folx.
About the Author
Becca Alley is on the LiNC-IT program Steering Committee, ASNC Self-Advocates Advisory Board, and provides consultant support to UNC TEACCH. She has a full-time job at a large financial institution as the Global Head of Project Management Office (PMO) Training Centre.
Tags: autism, autism behavior, autism resources, Autism Spectrum Disorder, autism support