Autism comes with a lot of gifts. It also comes with some significant challenges. One thing I really struggle with, is Executive Function. The diagram attached (credit: http/cogx.info – Dr Brown) provides a good summary of the skills that make up our Executive Function such as organization and planning, emotional regulation and working memory.
How I describe it to people when I’m training them is that it’s like having a dedicated Office Manager in your head. Someone who organizes your thoughts and responsibilities, reminds you what needs to be done, helps you switch focus between priorities, they even make you a metaphorical coffee when you’re stressed and help you practice mindfulness to manage your frustrations. Your Office Manager (lets call them OM from now on) is invaluable.
Except in someone with Autism, your OM is on strike. They’ve downed tools. Left the building. No handover. No temporary replacement. Certainly no coffee.
For me personally, this makes my life rather difficult. It makes it chaotic at best and a shambles at worst. It’s why I’m late for everything no matter how early I get up or how much I prepare before hand. It’s why my short term memory has more holes than a ring donut factory. It’s why I can hyper focus on one topic quite beautifully but if required to switch tasks at short notice I freak. It’s why I’m hot headed, prone to tears, my passion can inspire but it also intimidates. My forgetfulness and poor planning can frustrate and infuriate others. It’s why I take on too much too easily then panic because I feel like I’m drowning.
Why June is scaring me!
This month is a particularly bad month for me when it comes to my executive function and my missing OM. I’ve agreed to run three training courses (one is a full days conference) and as usual I’m scrabbling around last minute to get ready. I’m still writing materials for OM’s sake! Now I’m a perfectionist and have no fear; those course will be brilliant and I’ll pull them off like a pro. But it will mean late nights (think 3am finishes) and lost sleep to get me there. It will also leave my social energy completely drained because spending time with other people, especially lots of new people, is very hard for me.
Then there are my gorgeous boys. In between juggling H’s transition meetings to infant school, and L’s rehearsals for the school play and spelling bee, I’m trying to convince the local authority to contribute funding to L’s promised place at a fantastic local independent school – my superstar has been offered a scholarship but it doesn’t cover the full fees and we simply can’t afford to pay the rest. So I’m stressing because term ends in July and I need to have this sorted by then.
It’s also Fathers Day and I want to make it special for my much loved and somewhat overlooked hubby!
Then it’s L’s 8th birthday. Now to hear him talk you’d think he was planning his wedding! His expectations are sky high (my fault, I set a ridiculous benchmark in previous years when we had more time and more money!)
It’s also our Angel’s birthday this month. Pablo will be 9 years in Heaven on 25th June. 9 years! And it’s not just about finding him a suitable gift and planning a visit to the cemetery. It’s the inevitable pain of remembering. His loss never leaves me but in June it’s so much worse. I can recall so clearly every conversation from that time, every smell, ever physical sensation. And it hurts to remember. It’s draining, exhausting. It makes me want to hide from everyone.
And then of course there’s this blog. Because I feel so compelled to write and the process is so cathartic but I have no time! In fact I’m using up time blogging when I should be planning for all the other priorities I’ve been telling you about.
The moral of the story
So back to my missing OM. Back to the point of this blog. I guess what I want to say is, the chaos, the lateness, the forgetting, the losing things, the poor emotional regulation….all those things that may irritate you about me or the Autistic person(s) in your life; it’s not deliberate, we really are trying and we just need you to be patient. Be kind. Help, don’t judge. You can advise but don’t preach. Because I guarantee if you were inside my brain for even one day you’d run screaming back to your own and would give your OM the biggest bear hug when you get there 🙂
2 thoughts on “Send Help! When your Executive Function is dysfunctional”
Lizzy, your blog will soon be added to our Actually Autistic Blogs List (anautismobserver.wordpress.com). Please click on the “How do you want your blog listed?” link at the top of that site to customize your blog’s description on the list (or to decline).
Judy (An Autism Observer)
If you want to customize your blog’s description on the Actually Autistic Blogs List, please click here. Thanks.