Needles in a Haystack


To say that most people with Asperger’s have poor organizational skills might not be completely accurate. They just follow a different logic. Last week while helping MJ clear the floor in her bedroom, she freaked out because I moved a few things from the floor to the box of stuff she’d gathered together. To me, it followed logically that these miscellaneous items belonged in the same place. At least they were better off in a box than scattered on the floor. But to her, it was as if I were putting needles in a haystack.

Right now in MJ’s bedroom there are bins full of parts and old electronics that can be used for parts. There’s usually a mix of stuff on a table and all over the floor. In the office room she works in, there is a closet, a desk, a table, and shelves that are also full of parts and tools that migrate to the floor where she sets to work. And then there is also an assortment in our basement. I’ve offered to create a nice workshop area down there for her but unfortunately, she can’t see herself being comfortable downstairs. We need to find a system that works for her as well as for the rest of the household as soon as possible. Now that MJ has reached a more serious level with her creations, I’d like to help her discover ways of organizing to increase her efficiency. And I will be so much more at peace when the clutter has been tamed.

Organizing, sequencing, and prioritizing are difficult for people on the autism spectrum. MJ also has difficulty with the concept of time and she is more detail focused. She has trouble seeing the big picture and understanding how to get from what we see as a “mess on the floor” to a strategically organized work space. And I can’t tell you how many times in a week I hear, “Mommy! Where is my _______?”

I regret that we never mastered the concept of “a place for everything and everything in it’s place.” The whole family is lacking discipline in this area. We are guilty of buying multiples of things when we can’t find what we’re looking for in the house and we are pack rats, saving things to be used for projects “someday”. No joke, I’ve been working on clearing out clutter for at least 5 years. Luckily there is a community yard sale coming up and I plan to get rid of as much as possible.

For the time being, MJ seems to have shifted focus away from building with electronics. She had a setback with one of her projects. So, she’s set it aside in favor of photography. We gave her a new camera last Christmas. In the past few weeks she’s received multiple deliveries of things like lenses and lense adapters. Old camera equipment from all corners of the house has reappeared. So, I guess we need to organize all of that stuff too.

Yes, it’s fun to watch her let the creative juices flow. But we want to see progress towards the goal of independence. We had another meeting with the Pathways people to help answer questions that came up regarding the profiles. We were also introduced to a new member of the team. This person is the one tasked with partnering with businesses and locating internship and job opportunities. He shares an interest in the space industry and was able to sustain more in-depth conversations with MJ. He seemed to get a good picture of MJ and how her skills will be marketable. MJ told him that she might be happy starting with a very entry-level job, as long as it were in an interesting company with a stimulating environment. I added that I want to see her in a place where people understand her when she gets technical… a place where people are working on projects that are related to her interests and the conversations can go much further than they do with our limited level of comprehension. We are very excited to have this new liaison on board and to see what he will come up with. Our next meeting will be to review the completed profiles together.

I may have mentioned that MJ has been doing some graphic design work. This week we got word that the logo design she submitted to market an event was not chosen. Ultimately the decision came down to two designs and the executive committee went with the logo from another designer. I’m relieved that MJ handled the disappointment well. The process was a valuable experience and she’ll be able to include the work in her portfolio. She knows there will be other opportunities for design work and is really okay. I think I was more upset than she was. We waited to tell her until after we returned from the movie theater where we watched The Martian. I think that story helped put this experience into perspective. Graphic design is about solving problems. Now we can move onto the next problem.

Mars, space, photography, art & design, electronics, computer hardware and software… her interests and talents are so varied. It’s exciting, encouraging, and at times, even mind blowing to hear MJ talk about these things with other people. I know her first job or internship doesn’t have to be the perfect one but I hope that finding it isn’t like finding a needle in a haystack. Please pray for us!

God, I pray that MJ will find that thing, whatever it is, that will set her on a path of your design; that she will find the sweet spot where her God-given gifts and talents and God ordained passions overlap. I pray that you will reveal to her a vision for the person she can become.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
– Philippians 4:6-7

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