Problem Solving

Image shows chrysalises at various stages and an emerging butterfly.

There are few things I find more soothing and energising than creating a problem to tangle my brain in. Sometimes when I feel utterly sapped of energy, and completely exhausted, I will spot an issue that needs solving and slowly wrap my mind around it.

The change can be instantaneous, or it can be a slow build that starts under a duvet with a fragment of an idea. Slowly as the hours pass, it may draw me through the house, pausing only for the necessities – dressing only if the task will require it, drinking only if my head aches from dehydration, eating only if I need the energy. 

It could be a decision to start planting seeds for the Summer; planning what will need sowing, where and how and when, designing the layering of what is needed and the numbers, which tools and pots; all the organisation of vegetable growing.

It could be planning and crocheting a new hat, or designing and building a set of shelves from leftovers in the shed, or putting a spreadsheet together; it’s not about what kind of problem it is, it’s about having a problem and working towards a solution. 

This is where my brain comes into its own. It may struggle with Executive Function tasks, but it revels in problem solving. The routes to the results I want click into place and I begin to feel the flow of interest and action moving together. 

I can leave behind the dips in my spiky profile – the weaknesses and challenges that are usually things other people find so easy – and I can concentrate on the peaks – the things I find easy. The things that pour from me with a rhythm and effortlessness that makes me smile. 

Before I know it, a day that I had written off as a recovery day for recuperating after overdoing things, has sprouted into true productivity. Not because I looked at all the things I needed to do, and worried about them, but because I made space and put them to one side, giving myself time to focus on doing what I needed to do. 

It’s not about the end product, or ticking something off a list, it’s about the process. It’s about using the parts of your brain that work well and haven’t been drained by having to do things that don’t come naturally to you. It’s about being who you are and indulging your own interests. These are the things that help me heal.

Sometimes, when I am most tired, what I need is to sit alone in a darkened room with noise-cancelling headphones on. Sometimes, when I am most tired, what I need is to work on something I love for twelve hours straight without a break. Both recovery systems have a place, and both feed something deep within me. I just have to listen to myself and follow those pulls as they come along. That way I can recover as a whole. 

Image is a portrait of Rhi Lloyd-Williams looking to the side. It looks like she might be sitting in a tree. The sky is a deep blue

Along with Flo, Rhi Lloyd-Williams is a co-founder of Autism HWB. She is also a writer, poet, parent, playwright, blogger and all round good egg. She writes about autism on her website and you can find out more about her play, The Duck, at

Follow Rhi on Twitter: @outfoxgloved, Facebook: @AutistRhi & Instagram: @rhi_lw

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