6 Ways I’m Getting Through The Semester

I have been in college for 5 weeks now, and as usual, it has been a serious adjustment. My longest previous experience of being on a campus, I was a tiny baby autistic me, only 18 years old! At the time I knew nothing about autism, and I especially didn’t know that I was, in fact, autistic, so I moved through the college world overwhelmed and confused.

I failed a class, not because I was lazy, but because I couldn’t find it. No matter how hard I tried, I got lost, and eventually, I just stopped trying. Little me also didn’t know that you could drop a class, which could have been really useful.

I was also so sensory overwhelmed that I spent most of my time hiding under my bed. Some days I wish I could still do that now, but my bed isn’t tall enough. #adultproblems

Because I knew how hard college was last time, I made sure to have a plan going in, and that really helped. Did all of it work? No, of course not, but it gave me a great foundation for tweaking it so it can be better for the coming semesters.

So, without further ado, here’s what’s worked for me so far.

  1. Visual Directions

This one requires a buddy, but if you can visit your campus before the semester starts and have someone with an excellent sense of direction to help you make visual directions, it can significantly cut down on the amount of time you spend lost.

2. Hybrid Classes

I’m not sure hybrid is the word that all schools use, but a hybrid class is partially in person, partially online, and all autism-friendly. Spending 1 day a week in class instead of 3 has left me with less stressful social issues, and less sensory overload. Even just one hybrid class has made my traditional on-campus classes more doable. Now, online classes aren’t for everyone- it usually requires you to be more independent, but I love the flexibility, and to be honest, the fact that I can communicate on emails and message boards instead of face to face. Also, as a bit of a hangover from all that homeschooling, I prefer to teach myself things. If this is sounding good to you, I highly suggest seeing if your college or university offers hybrid courses as an option.

3. Color Coding

There are several ways that people learn, some people learn visually, some are better with Auditory, and others are kinesthetic learners-they learn using their bodies. Now me? I’m a hands-on learner for sure, but most of the time it’s not very convenient for me to touch everything I’m trying to learn. Luckily I’ve got visual learning as a back-up. Even though I can’t make pictures in my head like most people, visual information is fairly accessible to me. Hence, color coding. Each class of mine has a color, and I use colored pens and markers on my planner, my calendar, my to-do lists- all that organizational stuff. For me, it makes tasks and appointments pop out, so I’m more likely to process and complete them.

 

4. Built-in Self Care

I’m pretty sure that one of these days, I’m going to bring up self-care, and you’ll all revolt, and leave me here talking to myself. But until that day, we can talk about self-care! I find it extra important during the semester, because all of my brainpower is going towards learning and being social and trying to be flexible, so I’ve got no brain power to take care of myself. And I’m not talking overly complicated. You don’t have to book a spa day or get a massage. I go to my favorite used bookstore and browse for a while and buy a book (or two). On my long days, I treat myself to coffee. I bake cookies with Jess. I take time to snuggle with the cats. I think the best self-care is little, focused things. You know what you like best, so let yourself have it sometimes.

5. Quizlet

Hands up if you were that kid in school who always had a stack of note cards to study with. My hand isn’t up, because although I admired to organizational abilities of people who could study, I could never figure out how to make it work for me. Enter technology. I found the Quizlet app when I was looking for a way to put digital post-it’s on my phone. I still haven’t figured that out. Hm. Anyway, it’s a free app, where you can make your own decks, but you can also use other peoples. I can guarantee you that most low-level courses already have decks of information made. This, and the fact that Quizlet offers not only quizzes but games to help you learn information, made me a studying convert. Having all my decks on my phone means them when I can run through while I’m waiting in line, or in the car. Convenience, people, I’m all about convenience.

6. Habitica

The apps that I find most successful are the ones that give you a streak if you use it every day, and if you miss, you lose your streak. I’m talking about apps like Duolingo, or Memrise, or in this case, Habitica. Habitica used to be called Habit RPG, which I think gives you a better idea of what the point of it it is, but whatever. The concept is pretty simple, you put in things you’d like to make a habit, like brushing your teeth twice a day, or playing with the dog, or remembering to pack your lunch. If you do these things, you get points. You can level up, buy cool gear for your character, and hatch pet eggs. If you don’t, you break the streak and get noting. I find it a nice push to do things that are important, but not that important. (And if you’re worried that keeping your streak is TOO stressful, there’s a tavern where your character can rest without consequence.)

So here we are, everything that’s keeping me going this semester. I’m sure I’ll figure out new stuff, so look out for a part 2 of this post in Fall 2019!

A Desk Garden

My desk is a mess. I cannot even see its 2×3 surface.

It is not enough to hold me.

On a good day, its piles and cups are contained, like organized chaos.

Today is not one of those days.

The piles slide and the cups vomit out pens without my permission.

I ignore it for now.

The landslides begin, I can no longer ignore the journals and index cards and paperclips.

It’s time to tend my garden.

Everything has a place and must return to it.

But it can’t be too clean.

I operate well in a space that is messy-but-organized

So the architecture of my paper towers must be sound.

But nothing lasts forever, and soon I know that the inevitable will happen.

It will be time to tend my garden again.

 

 

Executive Dysfunction: Bullet Journal

Executive Dysfunction has plagued me for my entire school life. I was terrible at taking notes because I couldn’t discern what was important, so I spent all my time trying to write down everything, and I constantly missed deadlines because even though I had a planner, I got overwhelmed when I tried to organize it. In college, I relied heavily on my wife to help me make schedules, check my notes, proofread my assignments, and to be my tech guru, because I’m awful at navigating anything electronic. Even though I’ve finish school, I still struggle with Executive Dysfunction type things. We usually have three calendars running at any given time, and I need constant poking and prompting to get me to transition between activities. This bothers me. I want to be productive. I want to be independent. This year, I think I got lucky, in the most sideways of ways. I’ll give you a hint. Instagram.

One day a post came across my feed, a picture of something I’d never seen before, a planner that was anything but a planner. Thank god for tags. I found out that this thing I’d seen was called a Bullet Journal, and so began the week of inhaling any and all things Bullet Journal related. It turns out that the Bullet system had been set up a few years before as a productivity system, but, over time, people had started using the basic framework to create custom planners/trackers/calendars/art pages. I thought well, I like stationary, I like doodling, and I want so badly to be organized, why not give it a shot? It took some trial and error for me to come up with a system that worked. That wasn’t a surprise but was what a surprise was that I actually enjoyed the process of trying, as I’m usually hesitant to try something that I’m not sure will work.

I’d like to show you some of the things that work for me, and provide you with some resources for if you’d like try it for yourself. This post is going to be a bit picture heavy, but in this case, a picture is worth at least 100 words.

This is an example of my weekly spread. I use the same basic structure and decorate according to the Theme Week topic. Each day is divided into three, the bottom section is for appointments and such, the middle strip gets colored in according to my mood, and the top one, the most important one, is my priorities box. When I have a lot of things to do, I get very stressed, because I feel like I need to do them ALL, right now! And that’s not doable, no matter how much sleep I sacrifice. So, to combat this, every day, I get to prioritize 3 things. Those are the ones that I’m allowed to stress about. Once those are done, anything else I get done is a bonus. This system works surprisingly well for me, and has definitely lowered my stress levels!

My BINGO card is something that my Occupational Therapist and I came up with. In an effort to help me move between tasks, and to do more with my days, we decided to make things a little more fun. And also, with a bit of a monetary incentive. The activities are split between fun stuff, like reading and playing guitar, things that I enjoy, but sometimes need an incentive to do, and household chores. It works beautifully because when I’m lying on the couch playing with my phone, I don’t always want to move, but the idea of getting to mark things off on my BINGO cards can get me moving!

One of the cooler things I think I’ve done is my self-care Mind Map. I don’t know about you, but for me, self-care doesn’t come naturally, and if figuring out what to do takes any effort whatsoever, it’s probably not going to happen. So here, I have a number of different categories, with a few suggestions for each, in an effort to take any work out of the process. I know I’m happier and less stressed when I’m practicing self-care, so making a shortcut page was totally worth it!

Trackers are one of the coolest things about Bullet Journals! At least in my opinion. I really like getting to see data trends over time, and knowing that I won’t get to color in my tracker is a good incentive for doing things. Are you seeing a trend here? Getting me to do anything requires extensive bribery. Trackers are great because you can track anything you want, and they can be weekly, monthly, or even yearly!

I’ll leave you with some resources, in case any of this seems interesting. I’m always around to answer questions if you’ve got them, and I’d love to see anything you create!

My Bullet Journal Instagram

How To Bullet Journal

http://bulletjournal.com

Bullet Journal Supplies

Is Bullet Journaling Right For Me?

Things I Wish I’d Known Before Starting My Bullet Journal

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