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Follow Up on Why Your Autistic Loved One Can’t Find Objects Right in Front of Them

Nathaniel R. Geyer, DrPH, CPH, GISP

Jaime A Heidel wrote an article ( on this subject that outlined why people with autism have difficulty locating objects. She provides ample reasons such as visual overload, vague instructions, direction confusion, and object permanence (i.e., out of sight, out of mind). Some of her suggestions are to be more specific, avoiding multitasking, using visual supports, and having a designated place for items. Heidel’s article is very informative and is a good example of what should be considered when a person loses an object. I wrote this article as a follow-up on my thoughts about some of the ways that could assist in finding objects that others may not find.

For people living with me, I found that if something is lost then it is important to remain calm and not get worried. I am fortunate to live with neurotypical parents who love me unconditionally, but sometimes we may not agree on how to approach a situation.

Although I tend to be absent-minded at times, it is important to be present and flexible to find objects in a way that is not disruptive. Although it can be frustrating to lose an item and appear to be absent-minded, my two preferred approaches are retracing my steps and making SMART goals.

Retracing your steps means that if an item is lost, a person needs to stop and think, and to make a mental list of things prior to losing the items. This approach works if I avoid multitasking and not being distracted. I also found that in time everything that is lost eventually gets found. It may be ten minutes or ten years. Therefore, I must not get panicked whenever something is lost.

If a person continues to have difficulty losing objects, then I suggest making SMART

(i.e., specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based) goals that looks at the

five components to produce positive social change. The first step is to make the goals

specific, focusing on accomplishments, impact, and action-steps. Secondly, to make the goals measurable to account for any actions to implement to further progress to

completion of the goal. Thirdly, to make the goal achievable necessitates that there are resources and time to complete the goal. Fourth, making relevant goals will contribute to success. Fifth, the goals need to have a specific time deadline that is realistic allows the opportunity to adjust regarding its relevance, specificity, and achievability.

It is important to realize that it is okay to lose things, but it is what you do to improve and avoid making the same mistakes that will make a difference.


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