Inside one Asperger’s / autistic brain ~ making decisions:

To say that making snap decisions has never been my forte would be such an understatement that it might make you start laughing.

I make decisions that are as intelligent and sensible as anyone else (possibly more so, in some (many?) cases).  But I don’t arrive at them quickly.  This is most likely because I process each option more slowly.  Think of it a little bit like Temple Grandin’s mental run-through of agricultural designs before building the reality, except on a (much) smaller scale.

Everybody makes thousands of decisions every day, but they occur so fast that the person probably doesn’t even realize they’ve made a decision.  Other times they’ve made the decision so easily that although they were conscious of making it, they quickly forgot about it.

Decisions such as, which shirt should I wear today?  Or, I’m approaching a yellow light; do I have enough room to stop before it goes red, or do I have enough time to get through the light before it turns red?  These are all decisions that most people are conscious of making.

But for me, it seems like my evaluation processes run in slow motion.  I have to break complex decisions down into smaller components and answer each one individually. 

For example, choosing a movie to watch at night can take 15 minutes.  Because it’s not as simple as choosing a movie from the collection. 

A starting point might be, which genre?  Which energy level (something higher octane, or something low key)?  Then, which time period?  The 80s, the 90s, or something older or more recent than that? 

Once those questions have been answered, we have probably developed a “short list” of three or four movies to choose from, and the decision-making process begins to look more like that of the rest of the world.

And questions that most people might not even think to ask themselves become deliberate, distinct questions in my head. 

Should I chew this bite of food in my mouth five more times?

Am I getting hungry?  Am I thirsty?  Am I tired?

Does it hurt when I push on this spot on my upper shoulder?

Sometimes I don’t know right away.  Sometimes I have to think about it for a few seconds before I can give an answer.  And sometimes my original answer wasn’t correct and I have to change it.  “Should I change my pants today?”, “should I wash my hair tonight?”, and “what do I feel right now?” are all examples of this.

I think that it comes down to processing–as in, my own personal slower/delayed version of processing.  I’ve noticed that we, the people on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum, generally tend to process information more slowly.  But I’ve also noticed that we tend to do it (at least a little) more carefully, weighing our options in deliberate and thorough fashion. 

Through our autism spectrum lens, the way in which the rest of the world makes decisions often comes across as rash, impulsive, and reckless.  The most obvious example I’ve noticed involves drivers on the road; they often cut in front of other drivers, or misjudge a light changing from yellow to red, or fail to calculate the distance between their vehicle and that of the one in front of them.

Other examples include rash judgments made about other people based on mere snippets of information, actions made on incomplete information, or reactions to news sound bites.

When I’m faced with a decision, no matter how minuscule it may seem, I take a moment to ponder, considering all potential points of view, brainstorming for all possibilities, and weighing all of my options.  I’ve noticed that most of us on the autism spectrum tend toward to do this.

In fact, the world just might (would probably?) be a better place if it was just a little more autistic.  🙂  ❤

***

(Image Credit: Danny O’Connor)

🙂

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8 Comments

  1. Under stress, especially when I felt the situation was unfair or wrong, I made a number of considered decisions when I was younger that were … less than advantageous. They were never impulsive the way most people seem to mean the term, but I learned to expand my consideration and sometimes delay acting.

    However, this most closely reminds me of a comment a coworker and friend made once some years ago. Back before we all mostly worked from home, I used to walk each day in the area around the office. Often, my friend would join me. Along the path/sidewalk, there were light posts. They were set back from the street so when you were walking with someone and on that side, you could walk around them on either side. One day he told me he had noticed something.

    He told me most people would see the poles initially, decide how to navigate around them, and then pretty much do it automatically without thinking about it. He said, however many times we walked the same path, he could see me consciously noticing each pole and deciding which side to walk around it. Even if I largely picked one side on any given walk, he could tell it was a decision each and every time.

    And that was true, of course. It wasn’t a major decision. It didn’t occupy a huge amount of my attention or interrupt anything else I was doing. I hadn’t really realized that others did things differently. That observation has always stuck in my mind. Perhaps we consciously work through more decisions, even the highly repetitive or “routine” ones? Something to consider, anyway.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yep, I definitely think you’re on to something! Awesome point! Thank you so much for sharing it. That’s exactly what I figure; I make the conscious decision every time, even if it’s one I’ve made before. Even if it’s something mundane. Even if it’s not life-changing or hugely significant. On its face, it seems to run contrary to our usual characteristic of dependence upon routine, but maybe it just might be the underlying reason for it (?). Meaning that having a routine (arriving at the same conscious decision each time) might simplify or de-stress our lives in some way?

      Expressed another way, maybe *because* we must make a more conscious decision about every aspect of our lives, if we can at least decide the same way every time, that alleviates the stress because all we have to do is remember what we decided before and go with that. Which then might become the basis for our routine 😊

      Do you think I’m running parallel with you? ❤️

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I think that could be a factor in the need for routine. I’m not sure it’s the only factor, though I first learned how to deal with changes and disruptions without melting down so many decades ago and have been doing it so long it’s a challenge to untangle everything. But yes, we apparently don’t approach even the simplest things the same way others do. And observant people can see that difference even if we otherwise “blend in”. It goes deeper than social interaction and presentation.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Yep! Lol been there for sure :). It seems as though, for me, the magnitude of the decision doesn’t correlate with the time spent–or difficulty in–making it; the most minor decisions can take longer than the most life-altering ones! Lol ❤

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I find I have more consequences to seemingly easy decisions like what should I watch or should I chew this more. Energy levels, sensory issues, awareness of my lack of body language adds even more time to each agonizing decision. I’m trying to agree & add not disagree with you.

    Like

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