#Autism, #Anxiety and Indecision

#Autism, #Anxiety and Indecision

One of the most frustrating things for both me and my kids alike is their struggle with making decisions. It’s like they don’t trust that they can make a good choice. 

We’ve learned that we can’t ask any open ended questions without causing them undo stress and anxiety. 

I can’t ask “what do you want for dinner?” 

That question will result in the inevitable meltdown because it leave things to open ended and with too many possible choices. 

Instead, I need to ask something like “do you want chicken for dinner?”  That is a simple one answer question. 

This gets frustrating for me because it seems to make everything take so much longer. 

You folks ever deal with this type on anxiety driven indecision?

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I suddenly saw myself! I have a terrible time making decisions. My best friend once joked that she was getting me a tee shirt that said, “I can be spontaneous. Just give me a minute!”
Clothes shopping with my son is agonizing; same with video games, movies, gaming devices. Choosing things off a menu is anxiety-producing. Asking him what happened at school “that day” produces a lot of angst. I have to be specific in every interaction. I need to be a mind reader, but I’m not sure even that would help.
A lot of times I’ll make breakfast and he’ll say, “I don’t want that.”
What do you want?
“I don’t know, but not that.”
Why didn’t you say something when you saw what I was making?
“I didn’t know I didn’t want it then…”
So what DO you want?
“I dunno. Just make something.”


yes! I get anxiety indecision just trying to figure out what to make for dinner each night!

E The Third Glance

Perhaps you could start finding a bit more of a happy medium – I bet they saw Gavin learning about “good choices” and “bad choices” and they only know those words, but they don’t really know what a good choice is. This sets up a “you can either make a good choice or a bad choice” situation, where you believe that it is always an either/or, and you can get a wrong answer.
Here’s what would have been helpful to me in this situation as a little one: instead of asking “would you like chicken for dinner” or “what would you like for dinner?”, maybe try “would you like chicken or pasta for dinner? Both are good choices”. Do NOT ask “would you like chicken or pasta for dinner?” then follow it up with “that is a good choice”, because to me, that is saying, “well if I picked chicken, that means pasta is a bad choice. Next time, what if I want pasta? But Pasta is a bad choice, I can’t pick pasta, because that was a bad choice”. I know it’s English that “that is a good choice” is just an affirmative, an agreement to do the recommended thing. But that’s not how I hear it. If there is a good choice, then the other option is a bad choice. This can build up over time, so that if you asked “what do you want for dinner?” then there’s a mess, because nothing is always a good choice. There’s no right answer. Can you see how this causes anxiety? Instead of saying “that is a good choice” after a “pick one of two (or 3 or 4, etc.)” question, say “ok, we will have pasta for dinner”. That says “I value your opinion, thank you for giving me an answer, the other choice would have been fine too”. You can always preface the question with “Would you like chicken or pasta for dinner? Both are good choices, and I want to know which one YOU would like better tonight.” You might also try alternating between everyone in the household – you can make it a game, like Monday night it is Mommy’s turn to choose dinner. Tuesday night it is Elliott, Wednesday it is Emmet, Thursday it is you. (Or something) – this shows them that everyone makes choices, and gives them a chance to see you two making choices as well. You can even role-play this with Lizzie, by asking her the same question you would ask the boys.
You can still control the meal plan this way too. And it is good to practice making simple either/or decisions. Once that gets less stressful, add a 3rd choice. Then a 4th. Then maybe, months or years down the line, revisit the “what do you want for dinner?” open-ended question.
Ok, so I just gave you a bunch of parenting advice. That was weird, but I hope somewhat relevant and helpful for you to understand how my autistic brain interprets these types of questions, and ways that I can work around them. What works for me obviously may not work for your kids, but it’s worth a shot if you think it might, right? 🙂


@E The Third Glance thank you very much. I truly appreciate your insight. I’m gonna give this a shot. Thank you so very much. 🙂

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