Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Executive Function Fail (with pictures)

I'd have to say that one of the tougher parts of being Autistic is having so much executive dysfunction. But before we talk about dysfunction, let's talk about what executive functioning is. The first sentence of the Wikipedia article on executive functions says, "Executive functions is an umbrella term for cognitive processes that regulate, control, and manage other cognitive processes, such as planning, working memory, attention, problem solving, verbal reasoning, inhibition, mental flexibility, task switching, and initiation and monitoring of actions."

So basically, every time you complete any sort of task, you're relying on your executive functioning skills. This could be anything from cooking to getting dressed, from doing a math problem to following a map. Any task that has steps (i.e., do this, then do this) requires executive function skills. It's no secret that Autistic people tend to have executive dysfunction. This dysfunction affects various things in varying degrees, and of course, like everything, it varies from person to person.

My executive dysfunction really shows up when it comes to cleaning, cooking, and organizing. These are the two main things that make independent living quite difficult for me. Cooking, cleaning, and organizing require too many steps, too much planning, too much working memory, too much mental flexibility, and requires me to initiate and monitor too many actions...and forces me to try and make too many decisions. It's like there's a short in my brain. Whenever I have to attempt to do a cooking or cleaning task, it's like my brain just freezes up and fizzes out. It's not that I'm lazy. I'm not. It's not that I'm not smart. I am. It's just that for whatever reason, Autism really affects this part of my neurology.

Case in point: I recently moved out of an apartment that I shared with a roommate back into my parent's house. I did this for a variety of reasons...mainly to save money. The problem is this: At my apartment, I had my own bedroom that had a lot of stuff in it. But I still had a bedroom at my parents house that had a lot of stuff in it. So when I moved out of the apartment, I had to somehow figure out how to squeeze two bedroom's worth of stuff into one bedroom. It's not working. I put the big items in a storage unit (furniture, etc), but a lot of stuff I just need to sort through, organize, and pack into boxes or containers before I can store it.

It's not going well.

Basically, I just don't know where to put things. I have a couple boxes filled with random items sitting on top of each other. I need to sort through them, take out what I'll want to use, find somewhere to put those items, and then pack the rest away. Random clothes that I don't know where to put get stacked up against the wall. Small items get tossed onto the dresser.

I have long rectangular container filled with old school items and book. Papers, notebooks, books I read for English classes, music name it, it's in there. And I have no idea what to do with it. So there it sits. Also pictured is a roll-along-backpack that I have yet to unpack from my beach trip. And of course some random shoes and a hoodie. (Note: putting things ways (and unpacking) requires SO MUCH executive functioning too.)

All the papers that aren't in that aforementioned container have been tossed onto my desk. Some should just be thrown away, but some I want to keep. But I don't know where to put them. And I don't know how to initiate the sorting process.

Lastly, the book pile. I've rest all of these books. Most of them I don't have a desire to reread, but of course I want to keep them, because I enjoyed them, and I like having a substantial book library. But again, where do they go? The small bookshelf I already have in my room is chock full and overflowing. I don't have room for another piece of furniture. I need to get them more organized...maybe bring in another container to put them them in the attic for now? I don't know. Again, don't know how to initiate this process or where to start.

Basically, I need to do some serious organizing. I need boxes and containers. But what's almost as difficult as the organizing process is the decision making process. What do I keep and what do I store? What if I end up storing something that I end up needing to use? How do I predict whether or not I'll want to access or use something? All this decision making stuff involves executive function too. AND IT'S NOT WORKING. So here I sit, day in and day out, in this messy chaos. Not because I'm lazy. Not because I'm procrastinating. But because I'm Autistic, and my executive functioning skills are poop.

Oh, I just found out that there are these people called professional organizers. Hmm. It might be worthwhile to look into this...

1 comment:

  1. Lol;) I know exactly how you feel;) these are my issues too;) you should see my house!;) although my aunt is cleaning right now;)
    Btw I love the pics in your email... I will respond when my daughter gets off my computer;)


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