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Key points

  • decision-making skills help you make informed decisions for yourself
  • decision-making involves problem-solving, planning, prioritising and applying past experiences to new situations
  • to develop your decision-making skills, you need to know what your strengths and weaknesses are, and what support you need to make decisions.

What are decision-making skills?

Decision-making skills are the skills you need to make informed decisions for yourself.

An informed decision is when you have all the information you need to choose what’s right for you.

Why are decision-making skills important?

Decision-making skills are important because they give you autonomy, and choice and control over your life.

Without decision-making skills, you may risk being stuck in situations you don’t like or having other people deciding your wants and needs for you.

How do you develop your decision-making skills?

Decision-making requires executive function skills like problem-solving, planning, prioritising and applying past experiences to new situations.

Decision-making strategies

You can use different decision-making strategies depending on the situation. For example:

  • listing the advantages and disadvantages. This is sometimes called a ‘pros and cons’ list.
  • separating a big decision into smaller choices or steps
  • asking for input from other people, especially if the decision affects them too
  • thinking about what you want, need and value in life. This requires you build your self-awareness so you can make decisions based on those preferences.

The decision-making process

  • identify the decision: work out what decision you need to make and why it’s important to you
  • gather information: collect the information you need to make the decision. This could be information about your own thoughts and feelings, or information from research and other sources.
  • identify your options: as you gather information, it’ll probably become clear what options are available to you. Make a list of these options.
  • assess your options: use the information to weigh up which option might be best for you
  • choose your best option: select the option (or combination of options) that you prefer
  • make the decision: commit to your decision!
  • assess the outcomes: after you’ve made the decision, consider whether the process has met your needs. If not, you may be able to gather new evidence and make a different decision later.

What are the common challenges with decision-making skills?

Many autistic people have executive functioning difficulties, particularly under stress. Executive functioning difficulties include having trouble with remembering, concentrating, planning or organising things.

This can make decision-making hard.

You might also experience:

  • decision fatigue from having to make too many decisions
  • demand avoidance and be unable to make a decision
  • difficulty making decisions under pressure, or
  • intense anxiety around decisions with uncertain outcomes.

Things that can help you with decision-making:

  • researching the decision to understand the options and how they will affect you. Research could be finding information online or ringing an organisation.
  • getting support from people you trust
  • getting help with making a decision. If you need a lot of help with your decision-making, this is called supported decision-making. You can learn more about this by clicking here.
  • having questions and information presented in an accessible way. For example, you might need to be able to select options from a list or see the options in a visual format – like pictures.

Case story

Mai is trying to decide which jobs she’d like to apply for. She must consider lots of different information, such as location, her qualifications and experience, how many hours she wants to work, her desired salary, and what jobs will fit with her personal skills and needs.

She finds a job that interests her. To help her decide whether to apply, she makes a list of all the good things about the job, including the pay rate. Then she makes another list of all the bad things about the job, including the location. By weighing up all these factors, Mai ensures that she’s making an informed decision and one that is likely to provide her with the best outcome.

Real Life Story

Story description

I have flexible work arrangements, which means that I usually work from home, and I can choose when I start and finish work for the day. Depending on my capacity, I try to work from a shared office location one day a week. When deciding what day to work from the office, I consider my energy levels and sensory profile, any meetings I’d like to attend in person, which office days are busiest, and whether I have other arrangements planned such as appointments or home visits. 
Based on these variables, I can use a process of elimination to work out which is the best day to work from the shared office.