For about a year and a half now, I’ve been trying to get Safeway to reenable the ability to mute the incessant narration of the self-checkout kiosks. Early on, I had emails back and forth wherein the manager, who didn’t realize it had been disabled, confirmed that it now only can be muted on a case-by-case basis by flagging down staff to come do it for you. More recently, I’ve filed a disability accommodations complaints with Oregon Bureau of Labor & Industries.

(To be clear here: the manager didn’t scoff at the request. He just hadn’t even known the change had been made, let alone why, and knew as well that he couldn’t change it back himself. It’s above his pay grade.)

My reason for bringing this up now is that it’s the sort of thing where it isn’t necessarily obvious to a neuronormative person why it’s such a big deal. For me, even with earplugs in, the voice is one more piece of sensory input, and can ratchet up my anxiety response, already primed by the “spotlight effect” of that looming line behind me.

What’s a small thing for you, for me very much is not.

My brain spends every day engaged in the often-exhausting management of available resources versus the demands being placed upon them. Everyone’s brain does this, of course, but for autistics small changes can have “outsized” (by normative standards) impacts.

This become more readily apparent to me than it’s been in awhile when recently I made a couple of changes to how I account for my finances.

Briefly: I have an accounting app on my phone that I use to log all transactions as I make them, rather than relying upon the balance as reported by my credit union. This way, amounts such as the tip when I go out to breakfast are reflected right away, rather than waiting for them to show up in the account balance. In addition, twice a month I enter all the automatic payments coming up over the next two weeks. This way, the amount showing in my account app literally is the amount available for me to spend on other things.

So here’s what I changed.

First, I decided no longer to use any sort of automatic savings feature that rounds any transaction up to its nearest dollar and drops that difference into savings. Apart from the occasional forgetting to log a transaction, many of the discrepancies I run into seem to have their origins in these roundups and my accounting of them.

Second, I discovered that my accounting app has a “schedule transactions” feature that doesn’t need to be set to automatically add transactions. Instead, it can be used basically as a template for recurring transactions. I’ve added each of those automatic payments I enter every two weeks, so that now I don’t have to type these transactions by hand; I simply have to tap each one, make sure its date is set to the date the payment is going to happen, and add it. The “scheduled” template then moves down the list where it waits for its time to come around again.

Within days of making just that first change, the concomitant change in my resource levels was evident. Adding that second change made it even more pronounced.

It’s not like I could lift a car with the resources I’ve saved from these two changes to my banking and accounting practices. I don’t mean here to overstate. Nonetheless, when you need to budget for every use of your physical and psychological resources, any positive adjustment you can make is very noticeable.

It’s absolutely true, notwithstanding the likely normative shrugs: I need Safeway to reenable the ability to mute the self-checkout kiosks. It’s a small change for everyone else that mostly they wouldn’t even notice.

For anyone walking the tightrope of managing their attention, their anxiety, or their sensory processing, it’s a small change with concrete, positive effects upon our ability to continue navigating the world absent needless, extraneous stress upon our nervous systems.

The next time a neurodivergent person asks you to make what seems to you a minor change to something, remember to see it from their perspective, not your own.