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Joined: 4 Aug 2021
Age: 57
Gender: Male
Posts: 22
Location: Sydney, Australia

24 May 2022, 7:41 pm

It was a relief for me to find out people with autism have poor executive functioning. First off, I had to find out what executive functioning actually is. Secondly, I can now see how non-autistic people like me have problems organising information and prioritising particular tasks - precisely because this has been a major issue for me since childhood. Yes, I can tell you who every US National Security Advisor was from McGeorge Bundy to Jake Sullivan. But remembering to bring along particular items to a work-related event (assuming I remember what day it occurs) can be beyond me.

Thankfully, I'm not too proud to write stuff down in basic terms. I do a lot of that instead of just trusting my memory.


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Joined: 15 Sep 2008
Age: 69
Gender: Male
Posts: 8,965

25 May 2022, 3:00 am

I still don't really know what EF is, except an umbrella term for a load of brain things that could be construed as functions of an executive nature. I've read a few lists of them but I can never remember them, probably because they all seem so different from each other and because I don't see them as being part of the same thing at all. But I think it's always useful to look at individual functions and ponder how good or bad you are at them.

I grew up to distrust my memory (although it seemed fine for the first few years), especially with numbers which don't stick in my mind well because they don't mean much to me. Though I gather some Aspies have an affinity for numbers and can remember them much better than the general population can.

At school, I always worked on the assumption that I couldn't guarantee to remember anything unless I deliberately memorised it. I wasn't bad at doing that but the process used to scare me because it seemed so nebulous and unreal compared with something practical such as moving a pile of bricks from one place to another, where you always know how the job is going and your results don't suddenly go backwards. And they expected us to remember an awful lot. It was a fairly "good" school for high achievers and to me that explained why it was so hard to keep up. Plenty of kids would leave school without passing many exams. But when I finally turned my mind to it, I did quite well, and ended up better qualified that average.

I got a job in science. Scientists probably write things down more often than people in other jobs do, because science tries to be rigorous and it's known that relying on human memory is more fallible than committing information to paper. So I just adopted that into my everyday life - if it's important information, write it down, if you happen to remember it, great, that's quicker than rummaging about for the right bit of paper, but if you don't remember it, you've got the fall-back written record. They had Nuffield for some of the school subjects - Nuffield stuff tests understanding rather than rote learning, and I always wanted all my subjects to be done like that, but for some reason they didn't give me that choice. But it gave me hope that the bigwigs were beginning to understand that rote learning is a lot less important than understanding.

I recently looked at a list of signs of EF problems, and I didn't seem especially bad at any of them. I've possibly developed internal coping strategies to process executive matters differently to other people, to get round any problems I once had.

One exception may be an inability to keep a tidy house. My house looks like a cluttered, untidy mess, but some years ago I managed to stop it getting worse, and I think the main problem in getting it all neat and tidy is that there's so much of it, I hate throwing potentially useful stuff away, and it would take years of hard work to really make the place "nice," and it's not really important enough for me to do that. I can usually find what I want. There's quite a lot of order in the way I store and retrieve things, it just doesn't look like there is. The gangways are clear enough so I don't trip over things.

I have trouble dealing with service providers and getting "bureaucratic" tasks done. Mostly I find I'm more scared of them than I need to be. My senior citizen's bus pass expired and I put off renewing it for ages, expecting it to go wrong if I went to the council office to get it done. I thought that after a long wait they'd probably be really awkward and tell me I'd gone to the wrong place or something, and that they'd give me a method I couldn't understand. But I looked on their website, found an email address for bus passes, sent them a simple message about it, and within a few minutes we'd got it all sorted out and they say they're going to mail my new pass to me. I'd just been too scared of failing, though not all bureaucratic tasks turn out to be as easy as that of course. I just tend to assume they'll all be too hard and time-consuming.