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Background

I have found a new job in another city. While I'm looking for an apartment I will be living in my cousin's house.

I have never lived in her house before (and I have been at her house for the weekend less than 5 times) but we talk online regularly (more than once per week). I know I will certainly be expected to help. As someone on the autism spectrum I sometimes have trouble realizing when/if I should help. This leads me to be extremely tense when I think there is some unspoken expectation going on and I would like to avoid that. I would also like to avoid being seen as rude if I don't help by myself when I should have.

Question

How can I ask my cousin for specific house chore rules that I should follow?

I would like it to be more of a discussion than just a list of things. Everyone has chores that they like/dislike more than others and I would like to be able to say:

I don't really like doing X, would it be okay if I do Y instead?

Details and clarification

  • My cousin is married with two young kids (a 3-year-old and a less-than-one-year-old).

  • My cousin knows I'm on the autism spectrum (I told her one month ago) but I don't know how much she knows about this topic.

Why did I decide to post my question here:

  • I never did something similar before and I'm afraid at how she will react (finding me weird, thinking that I just want to do as little as possible, etc...)

  • Also, I'm not sure about how and when I should bring the topic (I only now that it would be better in person).

  • Also, if you have a list of chores I should talk about, that would be nice (I'm afraid something will be forgotten otherwise).

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Because they are your family and they know about your autism, you are in the best position to be completely open and honest right from the start. You will definitely feel more comfortable if you speak to them about your concerns on your arrival than if you leave it and then find (or imagine) yourself in one of those "tense" situations.

This might seem an overly simplistic approach but I really think it is for the best if you just lay out everything you want in one go.

You could perhaps say:

I really appreciate you having me stay. I don't want to be a burden to you, so while I'm here I want to help out as much as I can. As you know I have [however you describe your spectrum disorder] and I'm not very good at picking up on things that aren't spoken. If there's a job that needs doing but I haven't been asked, I might not realise it. It would make me much more comfortable if you would give me a list of chores to do, then I know I'm doing my share.

They may, out of politeness, say that they don't want you to do anything. Insist:

Please, it would make me feel more comfortable if I had some things I know I have to do. I want to help. If I don't have any, I'll just worry that I'm not picking up on something because of my autism. You could give me a short list and then add more to it later?

Family understand one another better than anyone, and I think this frank approach will both help them to understand you while you stay with them and make you feel more comfortable knowing that you have a way of helping them.

4

First off, I have lived with my uncle & aunt for about half a year. What happened when I lived with them was that they said 'just buy some groceries every now and then', and otherwise just help us out whenever you feel like it. We tried this, and that didn't really work. I had just moved out of my parents house, and only lived on my own for a few months before moving in with them. I didn't do enough according to their expectations, but in the beginning they didn't tell me. It made for some awkward moments, so then we did set up some rules.

I think that for everybody, not only those on the autism spectrum, that start living together, it is good to set up ground rules for any co-living arrangement. Everybody has different expectations regarding cleanliness, preferred dinner time, grocery expenses etc. Since you will be a guest at their home, you should try to follow their standards.

Since you talk online regularly, I would contact her that way and explain that you want to set up these rules. Then you can mention that you want to set up these rules clearly since you otherwise might have a hard time knowing if you're abiding their standards for the chores.

You could then suggest that you, for example, do the dishes every night (if that is one of the chores you prefer). In this conversation, you can also ask what their usual chores are and ask how you can help with those. Then, to make sure that you don't have the anxiety regarding helping enough, explain to her how you are afraid of not doing enough, and ask her to tell you immediately if you would not be doing enough. In my case, my family didn't tell me initially if something wasn't to their standards, which caused friction. But after we made these rules, it was easy since we could just refer to them whenever there was a misunderstanding.

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My cousin knows I'm on the autism spectrum (I told her one month ago) but I don't know how much she knows about this topic.

Well, if she don't know a lot, try to explain your autism using evertything you can if you're struggling to explain.

I would like it to be more of a discussion than just a list of things.

Instead of asking "Hey ! what can i do ? Oh, I don't really like doing X can I do Y instead ?", you should ask her to explain it and interact when you need more explantion like :

You can do X but you don't need to do Y, (reasons why)

Ok but I wanna help doing Y, how can I help ?

If I wanna do Y instead of X, is it still fine ?

If you wanna help doing Y, you can help us by doing A,B,C or D

I sometimes have trouble realizing when/if I should help

I'm in a similar situation (for different reasons), but the only thing that you can do is just to go and help doing X. Even if they don't need it, they will stil apreciate the effort !

I would also like to avoid being seen as rude if I don't help by myself when I should have

Don't feel bad about it. Just try to help as best as you can, and if you NEED help, feel free to ask them, and if no one is here when you need help, simply look it up on the internet (if you really need) or let that task aside and when they'll be back, ask a question like :

"Hey ! sorry I didn't do X because I don't know how to do it ? can you help me and explain me at the same time ?"

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