Neuronormative scheduling can set us up for failure – but what are the alternatives?
when scheduling an appointment or a social engagement and someone proposes a specific time/date, you ARE allowed to ask for a time that suits you better. You are allowed to say „can we do it a week/month, two/three months later?“ „Do you have a spot open that is early in the morning/early in the afternoon?“. You are also allowed to say: „I struggle with quick decision-making around appointments/dates, let’s talk about some possibilities and make a tentative appointment, but I might get back and change it after I processed“
As common-sense as this may seem, many autistics/PDAers and persons with attention differences („AD(H)D“) tend to really struggle with asking for a more appropriate time slot, especially if it’s in immediate interactions (on the phone, in person). Many of us have internalised shame around how we energy budget. Some of us need to plan months ahead to properly energy budget. Especially when we are the ones asking fort he appointment, we can quickly feel indepted when we are offered a spot – and like we cannot possibly ask for more. And that deviating in any form from what is being offered is asking for more, for too much. Many feel intense anxiety and worry that if they self-advocate like that (yes, this, too, is self-advocacy), the other person will be annoyed and react less kindly in the future.
Sorting through our sorts quickly, gauging our reactions and making sense of them in words can be difficult, especially when we are asked to make quick decisions what we’ll be able to do at a specific time in the future.
Those of us with additional time-agnosia (time blindness – a thing for many „AD(H)Ders“), those who struggle with executive functioning, those of us who are in burn-out anyway, or the PDAers among us can often feel like it’s impossible to properly time-plan with us anyway. That it’s always a gamble with us and appointments/social engagements – this is true for autistics, too, for a variety of reasons.
For a variety of reasons, we end up making appointments and committments to social engagements that end up having to cancel – or that drain in additional ways. Which adds to the internalised shame.
We don’t really learn neurodiversity-affirming models of making future time committments, so we often don’t know we show up differently here.
Scripts for making more appropriate can help.
Knowing that it’s not just you, and that this is a structural thing can help. Knowing that a lot of this is actually due to neuronormative planning defaults can help.
So here are a few more scripts:
personal social engagements:
„I really want to meet with you, but things work better for me when I plan ahead. Could we do this next month?“
„I tend to struggle with going out in the evening, can we meet around X time?“
„While I’d really love to come to your party, I likely won’t be able to. Can we celebrate afterwards and do …?“
„Restaurants/bars are difficult for me because of the background noise and food smells. Can we meet at x place instead?“
„That day/week is very full, what other date would be possible?“ (yes, even if you are the one asking for the appointment, even if you TECHNICALLY could make the appointment, but your day/week really is full of exhausting stuff already).
„That day is also full, would you have a spot on Tuesday or Thursday of the week after that?“
„What is the earlierst date that you have a free spot before/after 10 am. I don’t mind waiting“.
„This is urgent, but I struggle with appointments after xpm, is there any chance I can come before xpm this week?“