Importance of Clear Instructions for an Autistic Person (Car Wash Example)

Here’s an example of why clear instructions can be important for an autistic person. I’m using car wash as an example because I’ve hand washed them before.

If I’m told to do a good job washing a car, I might spend too much time removing tough stains and cleaning hard to see or reach areas.

Instead of making sure that the wheels of the car look clean, I might spend more time trying to make it barely able to stain the towel.

Instead of just spraying hard to reach surfaces such as the vehicle roof, I might put extra effort into those areas.

Instead of removing objects by hand, I might put excess effort into vacuuming tight spots such as the spaces between the seats or under them.

If I feel that I missed some areas, I might go back and carefully look for hard to find stains rather than see the whole car as a clean car.

You can see problems with this.

One of the reasons I feel the need to tell others that I’m autistic is that explicit instruction is necessary. It’s easy for me to be distracted by irrelevant details, take things literally, and miss non-verbal social cues, which may be used as feedback.

The earlier clear instructions are given, the better.

It’s a little clearer to say “make sure that the car looks clean” or say “you don’t need to clean where it’s hard to see” rather than saying “make sure that you do a good job” because I have a better idea of where to focus. I’m more likely to see the car like their friends see it.

I can misinterpret “do a better job,” as pay even more attention to details rather than do what’s relevant.

If told to work faster, I might scrub even harder or faster.

Questions to ask might be, “does the car look clean?” while standing at a distance from the car.

Things that I might try include: watch people do the work, read articles about it, watch videos about it, ask for feedback, and ask questions about what’s needed to be done.

To avoid repeating the same mistakes, I’ll have to remember to focus only on relevant details for my next car wash.

 

 

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