My world is full of lists. I have them on my walls and whiteboards at work, on papers at home and scattered through synchronized computer systems, including my mobile phone, computer, iPad, print outs. My lists are everywhere.
Lists serve many functions. They help us to plan and prioritize our tasks and our day. They help us to allocate time, resources, responsibility and dependencies to tasks and they help us to build a sense of achievement. At a baser level, many people on the autism spectrum derive enormous pleasure from lists and categorization.
The Pleasure of Lists
This probably seems strange to the neurotypical mind but lists have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. In fact, lists were a huge part of my daily life long before words and writing.
I’m sure that most parents of children with autism have witnessed their child lining up their toys time and time again, often in the same pattern but sometimes differently too. Probably it hasn’t occurred to you that this behavior is simply list-making and categorization without words, but it is. I remember doing this as a child and lining my cars up in order of favorites or colors. I also remember categorizing cars, buses and trucks into different rows.
That’s right. Children on the autism spectrum are born list-makers and it feels good. List-making is a form of stimming and for us, it scratches an itch.