I was originally going to call this post “dining hall hacks,” but then I realized that that maybe sounded a little terrorist-y. I was once accused of rigging an alarm system, and before I defended myself, I was quite flattered, because I really appreciated the fact that people assumed I would be capable of such a thing. In reality, I’m not. But I digress.
When I started college, I was losing things right and left. It was frustrating, time-consuming, and most of all, discouraging. I spent a lot of time beating myself up over this, but eventually, I developed strategies to take things off my mind–literally. I realized that a seemingly simple task–e.g., remembering my keys–is actually kind of complicated…
Hack #5: Visual Cues. Standing in the middle of my dorm room, I can see where any given item goes just by looking at the labels on my drawers, shelves, and closet-y thing (wardrobe). I even have them labeled in Russian.
The great thing is that this gets easier over time. Autistics thrive on routine. After about two or three weeks of always putting my wallet in a specific container, I stopped thinking about it. I freed up more cognitive space for more interesting and important things. I felt a lot more relaxed. And I’ve never forgotten the Russian word for “blanket” since. (It’s одеяло.) Win/win/win situation.
Understand college accommodations with a long list, advice from a wise student, and the tales of Grace Gonzalez, a disabled student who is studying Crocodile Studies with Professor Crocodial. True story, I promise.
I scoured dozens of colleges’ websites to compile this list, so I dare say it’s pretty comprehensive. Your school might not offer every single one of these options, but it never hurts to ask. Keep in mind that while colleges in the US are required to provide accommodations, those requirements are different from the ones that apply to elementary, middle, and high schools. If you had an IEP or 504 plan previously, your accommodations as an undergraduate may undergo some significant changes.
Autistics might be bad at social skills, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get better. In collaboration with an amazing team of college-age-ish people, I compiled documents full of advice and information on everything from the disability accommodations process to dining hall norms. This resource is called “Autism College Hacks” because a) college can be hacked to our advantage and b) you can’t grow up in Silicon Valley without taking on some of the vernacular.