Why Your Autistic Loved One May Prefer to Do Housework Alone

Close-up image of a person ringing out a yellow dish towel over a red bucket of suds.

Does this sound like you or the autistic person in your life?

I do NOT feel comfortable cleaning the house if someone else is home, and I’ve always been this way no matter where I’ve lived or with whom.

My reasons are:

1) I am ridiculously easy to startle. For example, if I can’t hear that you’ve entered the room because water is running, and you suddenly start speaking, but I heard no warning sound before that, I will jump damn near clear out of my skin (and if looks could kill, you’d keel right over).

2) I get VERY focused on tasks. Once focused, it’s very hard for me to switch focus, which may mean I’ll run smack into you walking from one room to the next with a sponge in my hand because you’ll cease to register in my brain.

3) If anyone talks to me while I’m cleaning (cooking, too), I have to divide my attention, which will result in my making a mistake in my task or coming off unintentionally rude to the person talking. I can’t do both.

4) Even though this hasn’t happened for years, I still half-expect someone to tell me I’m “doing it wrong” and try to show me a “better way”, thus interrupting me AND erasing my mental map for the task.

So, when I do household chores, I make sure I’m alone. I don’t want to be a bundle of anxiety, and I don’t want to come across as a jerk. It’s just better for everyone involved.

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The best way to improve communication with your autistic loved one is to understand how your autistic loved one’s mind works! Intentions, motivations, and personal expressions (facial expressions or lack thereof, body language, etc.), are often quite different in autistic people than they are in neurotypical people.

Experience a better understanding of your autistic loved one by reading books about life from an autistic perspective as well as stories that feature autistic characters. You’ll have so many “Ah ha!” moments and start seeing your autistic loved one in a different light (and you’ll have a better understanding of their behaviors, which you may have been misinterpreting up until now).

Books I recommend for a better understanding of your autistic loved one:

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