cognitive strategies

Using the memory you have

Anonymous said to :

I have memory issues. Things like names, dates or times, directions, and other important details often escape me. Lately, I’ve been using “external memory” in the form of a notebook or my phone.

However, people tend to get impatient or bored at best when you’re constantly consulting a notebook in order to tell them what you need.

At worst, they talk over me, try to tell me what they think I want, or walk away.

How do I get people to understand?

Or should I just work on fixing my memory instead?

realsocialskills said:

A few things:

Don’t wait for better memory:

  • Improving memory is possible for some people; not everyone
  • Whether or not it’s possible for you, you need to communicate now
  • Communication shouldn’t wait for cognitive changes
  • It’s important to make strategies that work with the cognitive abilities you have now

Meanwhile, you might be able to make some of your external memory faster. Here are a few possible ways of doing that:

Write things on your hand or a wrist band:

  • Looking at your hand only takes a second
  • This might work well for remembering what food you want to order, or what you want to buy
  • Or in general terms what you wanted to talk about
  • There are also disposable paper wristbands you can buy to put notes on
  • That works similarly, without having to write stuff on your hand

Put some information on your phone’s lock screen, eg:

  • Write something in your notes app
  • Take a screenshot
  • Make that screenshot your lock screen wallpaper
  • This means the information is available immediately once you get out your phone

Cheat sheets:

  • If there are things you consistently need to know but can’t remember, making pages with that information and putting them in particular places might help
  • Eg, for remembering what a store has
  • Or remembering what questions you’re likely to be asked
  • Or lists of people who are likely to be in particular places

Optimizing your notebook:

  • Eg: If there is information you need frequently, it might be worth putting it on dedicated pages with color-coded tabs
  • It also might be worth using something like a three-ring binder so that you can put information you need soonest at the front
  • Or even *on* the front, if you get a three-ring binder that has a space to put in a cover sheet on the front

Communication boards or apps:

  • Using communication boards or a picture-based AAC app might help too
  • Communication aids aren’t just for generating speech, they can also be for cognitive prompting reminding you what it’s possible to say
  • Making pages for particular situations might help you to communicate faster
  • You’d still have to open the page, but it might result in less hunting around for information once you get there
  • Having a page with a few options might make it easier to remember and process things
  • Associating images with things you’re trying to remember might make them easier to remember
  • If you keep the symbols in a consistent place and touch them some while you communicate, muscle memory might also help you to remember things
  • (Even practicing with boards in private without using an app to communicate directly might make it possible to use muscle memory to prompt yourself)
  • Proloquo2Go might work well for this
  • (Or maybe even something like Custom Boards, although that uses more childish symbols and that could be a problem)

It also might help to be more open about your memory difficulties:

  • Sometimes being open about how bad your memory is can help
  • If you don’t tell people what you’re doing, they might not be able to tell the difference between using external memory and ignoring them
  • (Especially if you’re looking at a phone; they might think you are facebooking or something)
  • They also might be trying to help, and might not realize that it’s being anti-helpful
  • If you tell people what’s going on and what would help you, *some* people will do the right thing
  • (Not all. But enough that it’s often worth it)
  • That also can allow you to ask people things that you don’t remember


  • “I’m sorry, my memory is bad — could you remind me who you are?”
  • “Give me a second — I need to check my notebook.”
  • “I don’t remember when that’s happening — I need to check my calendar on my phone.”
  • “I actually get really confused when people try to tell me what they think I want — I’ll be able to find it faster if I check my phone”.

Also, if you’re approaching people and they’re walking away, it might help to change the order in which you do things to make it go faster from their perspective, eg:

  • Get out your notebook
  • Turn it to the right page
  • Put your finger on the piece of information you need to remember
  • Then go up to them and ask for help

tl;dr If you have memory issues and rely on external memory aids, there may be things you can do to use them more quickly.



Hi, this is for the person who posted about getting stuck in feedback loops of negativity. I have depression and that happens to me a lot. One thing that has helped me is writing in colorful sticky notes and putting them all over my room,…

alexfienemann said:

Going to try this.  What a great idea!

I am a teacher.  I got a lovely email from a parent once, and she CC’d my principal on it.  This was during an especially trying time for the school and for education in general.  He told me to print it out, keep it in my drawer, and look at it whenever I felt frustrated with my students or parents or whatever.  A lot of teachers do this - keep notes and reminders of how good they are at their job, because while teaching is wonderful, there can be very very bad days and it is very easy to get into a negative feedback loop because you are responsible for so much and take care of so many young lives.

I know, kind of a TL;DR, but I thought it pertained. ^^





Anyone have tips on cashiering while autistic/nvld? 

I got a job in a grocery store, and those seem to overstimulate me really fast. Hopefully it won’t be too bad because with cashiering I only have to do the same thing over and over, rather than trying to maneuver around people. (uggh but the lights and the intercom and the noise and the people and the long shifts)

so far I have:

1. Stim specifically when I get home/ do a lot of “active relaxation” things like guided meditations and yoga rather than tv or internet

2. I have a nice pocket figit toy that makes waiting on line in food places almost bearable- so bring that

3. Try to keep my blood sugar steady

4. when I feel myself start to get overwhelmed do some breathing 

andreashettle said

In addition to doing stims and “active relaxation” after you’re done or arrive home, could you also do these things (or similar things) before you start? So that way at least you’re not adding stress on top of more stress from whatever you were doing before starting to cashier stuff.

Is there a way you can occasionally go to a quiet spot somewhere for a couple of minutes in the middle to do stimming or active relaxation as an occasional break during?

I’m not autistic so I cannot draw upon my own experience here (my ADD does sometimes get me overwhelmed in certain overstimulating situations like trying to shop for clothes, but I think not to the same degree as overloading for an autistic person), but extrapolating from what you do already …

realsocialskills said:

Do any of y’all have suggestions?

kinthulou said:

I cashier! And do customer service. And I’m pretty sure I’m autistic. 

Cashiering is my least favorite thing but over the last year I have gotten really good at it. I’m lucky that my store isn’t super big or loud all of the time, but sometimes it is and here is how I cope. Maybe some of it will be useful for you, too, asexual-aragorn?

1. Purposeful stimming while working. There’s music in my store which is really nice and good for dancing to, and I’ve found that swaying and rocking and repetitive arm movements, all components of dancing in one spot, are super helpful and don’t bother anybody. My boss thinks I dance because I’m cheerful, but really I do it because it’s helpful. Some of it I can even do *while* ringing up customers!

I also have a ring on a string around my neck that I fidget with when I am super stressed. Similarly, I will fidget with my ace pride ring. 

I basically stim in one way or another constantly and it’s the most helpful thing.

2. Scripts. So many scripts. Ninety percent of everything I say to customers is scripted. I have a script for when they come into the store, arrive at my register, answering the phone, explaining the rewards cards, and separate scripts for each way that a person could pay. I have scripts for when it’s too loud and I can’t hear the customer talking to me, and for when a customer has a heavy accent that I can’t make out. There are scripts for telling customers where things are and for telling them I don’t have an answer for their question and need to get the manager. I practice them. I write them down if need be and read them over and over. I’m terrible at multitasking but I know my scripts so well that I can rattle them off while doing other things. I can say any of these scripts when I’m incapable of saying anything else. I probably say them in my sleep. 

3. On days when the lights are too much for me, I wear my hat. See if your store has a uniform hat and get one. It’s invaluable for shading eyes against the lights. 

4. If you’re having a day where you can’t do eye contact, don’t do eye contact. Smile, be cheerful and helpful and polite, but just keep your head down and ring. I’ve been doing this a year now and no one has noticed that I often don’t look at their faces. 

5. If you ever get overstimulated and it’s making it difficult for you to answer a customer’s question or something, call your manager for help. even if it’s something you can usually handle on your own. You don’t even have to be out to your supervisors as autistic, just tell them that you’re having an off day and got confused. The important thing is that the customer stays happy, not that you can do all the things all the time.

6. If there are things other than just ringing up purchases that your job requires (like mine does), make lists. Break the lists down into manageable chunks and keep them where you can see them. Even if I don’t need the list to help me remember things, just having it there is a little grounding, because I know that if I get overwhelmed I still have it there to tell me what to do.

7. Going to second breathing exercises and keeping your blood sugar steady. Those will be fantastic for you. 

8. I don’t know if this is a common thing or not, but I always function significantly better in spaces that I have taught myself to think of as “safe spaces.” It took a couple of months, but I turned the space behind all the counters at the registers into safe spaces and now I feel better just being there where I am supposed to be.

9. If you have a locker at work to keep your things in while on duty, it’s a good idea to get stuff to put in it that will help you calm down and get centered again on your breaks. I keep a book in mine to read and most recently added the softest microplush throw blanket I have ever found, so when I’m frazzled I can wrap up in it for a few minutes. It really helps. 

10. Establish routines. A beginning of shift routine and an end of shift routine are super important. I always start and end my shifts with the same little actions of setting up and then tidying up my work station. That gets me into “work mode” and mentally prepares me for whatever the work day might throw at me. 

11. Remember that it is okay not to make small talk if you are not up to it. Most customers don’t care if all you do is make noncommittal noises and smile while they talk.

12. Remember the regulars. You don’t need names or anything complicated. Just remembering whether or not they have (or don’t want) a store rewards card or whatever will make them like you a lot and also make your life a lot easier. I’ve found that my regulars are now the highlight of my day, and I can banter with them and when they don’t see me for a while they ask about me and seeing them generally helps me out a lot. This is a thing that happens over time, though, so no pressure to get it all down immediately.

13. Be nice to your coworkers. Befriend them if possible. (Note: befriending doesn’t mean, like, actual friends. Just work friends. You don’t have to see them outside of work or anything.) Help them if you’re having a good day and they’re stuck on something you know how to handle. They will have your back when you get overwhelmed. I had a near-meltdown at the beginning of one of my shifts and everyone on the team helped me out that day so that I could get through. We’re at the point now where any time they see I’m struggling with my job, someone steps up to help. None of them know I’m autistic. They do it because they like me.

The repetition will be helpful and I think as long as you take care of yourself, you’ll find over time it’s not as overwhelming as you thought it would be. I know I am the most impaired—socially and by sensory overload and physical disability—at my store but I am the favorite of most of the customers and also most of my coworkers. I surprised myself a lot by really liking my job despite cashiering remaining my least favorite thing.

Okay that got really long but I’ve been thinking about this a *lot* and i hope at least some of it is super helpful. 

And if you want help coming up with scripts, shoot me a message! I’m really good at those! I will help!