Executive Function Followup — Day 17 — 30 Days of Autism Acceptance

Today I noticed that someone on LinkedIn liked my post about Executive Function, so I am going to go and see what I can say more about this.  Currently I am just going to put quick notes, and this may end up being a multi-post thing, I don’t know yet, but here is the list of little things I am gleaning from that post from “Day 9”.

  • What is Executive Function?
  • Goofing off is fine.
  • Trying to work around other people is difficult for me.
  • Chemical sensitivity.
  • Social Overwhelm.
  • Communication Difficulties
    • Trying to help people make their communication work for me.
    • Explaining being in social overwhelm.
  • Sense of opinion not being important in this house.
  • Using tools to organize time.
    • Bullet Journal
    • Medication Log
  • Letting “failings” be an OK thing.
  • Giving time to other people, when I don’t want to.

There, those are the key points from that, so, now let’s get that to a post format.

What is Executive Function?

This is a little bit of a difficult thing.  I am not really sure how to say this simply.  Mind you, I’m not usually known for saying things simply that often.

Executive function is the ability to get done, what you want to get done in your day.

Now that’s really quite simple.  There probably are different ways to put that.  For me, often I have “failures” of executive function.  That is, I know that if I were to “put enough effort in” I could easily have accomplished what I had planned to, but I managed to not be able to.

There are a lot of different reasons that this may happen, and I will talk about some of them as I write more.  Probably the biggest issue with my ability to get done what I want to, is how I end up interacting with other people.  So, let’s see what more I wanted to say?

Goofing off is fine.

This is really an interesting thing.  I have learnt that actually in order to be productive, I have to know when I have lost my ability to be productive, and find ways to bring my mind back to that.

A lot of that could be considered “goofing off.”  It can be playing games (currently I have been playing Eternal Lands as my go to game), watching YouTube videos, watching Netflix, watching TV, or whatever.

Sometimes, it really is just a matter that I need to get some sleep, or at least rest.

So, in a lot of ways, goofing off is not only fine, but it is absolutely necessary.   If I am trying to do stuff when I just can’t do it, it’s far better for me to switch to something different.

Trying to work around other people is difficult for me.

When there are other people around me, it can be really difficult for me to be able to do my thing.  I honestly have trouble processing basic information when I am around other people.

For example, when I am feeding the dog in the morning (dry food, drugs, and flax oil) even on a good day, it becomes very difficult for me to just do the activities that are involved with getting her breakfast together.

Depending on what my interaction is with other people, it can take quite some time to recover from an interaction with other people.  If someone is talking to me, it becomes almost impossible for me to do anything else, without losing my ability to attend to the conversation on any level other than the most basic level.

When this happens, even once all of the interaction ends, I still am not able to do what can otherwise be not that difficult can be quite difficult when I have “recently” had a difficult social situation.  Sometimes this can be several hours, other times I might “settle” in as short a time as about 20 minutes, if I give myself the space to do that.

Chemical sensitivity.

I have found that I have sensitivity to a lot of different chemicals.  Now, usually people consider “chemicals” to mean “man made” or “synthetic” or whatever…  To me this includes all sorts of things like “onions” or “milk” or “wheat.”  All of which I have some degree of sensitivity to.

When I spend time around other people, when I get back to my own space, I realize just how much other people just don’t understand these kinds of things.

My original post was talking about sensitivity to cleaning supplies.  A lot of cleaning supplies have added fragrance so that they “smell nice”.  Most of these fragrances are things which I am sensitive to.

Other things I can be sensitive to is things like bleach (which I’ve found really doesn’t actually get things clean, but rather it removes the colour from the dirt).  So that can be a problem for me as well.

The problem with the fragrances is probably the most common thing I run into.  Too often being around people (not in any particular situation) means being exposed to fragrance which can cause me to have to leave a space in some cases.

Social Overwhelm.

I talked about this a bit right at the top, but somewhat covering even more broad concept than social overwhelm.

There are times (usually at least part of most days) where I can not be social in a way that feels at all “safe” for me.  I might be managing to “obey rules” in a good enough way that no one really notices just how difficult this is happening for me.

Most social situations I feel that I am having to make sure that I “do all the right things” and try very hard to not break social rules.  This leads to not being fully capable of being present in a social situation.

This leads to a lot of energy being used simply to be in the part of a social situation.  After a fairly short period I start to lose my ability to fully participate, if the space isn’t accommodating my needs to be able to be in that space.

As a conversation progresses, if those accommodations are not in place, I will need to start using different means to be more present in the conversation, or things can fall apart very dramatically.

Communication Difficulties

In a lot of situations I find that the way other people can communicate can be very difficult for me, and that I just don’t manage to process information in a useful way.

For example, when people present multiple pieces of information to me at the same time, each new piece of information becomes more difficult to process as they are added.

If I am feeling OK, then I usually can process about 3 items before things start to get some difficulty processing any more information.

On the phone, it can be a lot more difficult for me to handle communication, so I try not to do “difficult” things on the phone, unless I have to.

Trying to help people make their communication work for me.

Quite often as I am talking with someone, and I am having difficulty with the conversation, I feel that if I can help the person understand what is not working for me, that I can help them be able to better help me understand them.

My experience about trying to do this has been that it only very rarely proves to be a helpful thing, and often ends up being a harmful thing.  Well, harmful, in the sense that it leads to even worse communication.

I think that even in these situations, it can lead to the person getting some understanding how to better communicate.

In my experience, I have found that most people have little or no problem with communication which works for me (ie. If someone is talking in a way that works for me, most people will not have any problems with how that person is talking).

On the other hand, many people seem to be incapable to communicate in a way that works for me.  I tell a person that they are talking too fast, and then they slow their pace down to 1/4 the pace that they were talking, rather than 4/5 of the speed that they were talking.

If I am talking to someone and they keep saying multiple things one after another, and tell them that it would be way easier if they made sure I understood what they were saying, before moving on to the next item.

They then go to the point of saying “Have you unplugged your modem?”  “Do you understand what a modem is?”  “Do you know how to unplug it?” and breaking things down to a ridiculous level.

People seem to have a “2 modes” of handling how to communicate with people, “too complex” or “too simple.”

Another thing that I experience is that people will interrupt me as soon as they have heard only a minor portion of what I am saying, before really understanding the whole of it.

So, I will mention that they are not letting me complete my thoughts.  Usually, this will lead to a person either increasing the degree of interrupting me.  Or leaving long blanks which become very awkward.

Explaining being in social overwhelm.

I try to explain to people when I am just not being able to process what they are saying, and that I will need a dramatic change if they need me to continue in that situation, or I will need to take a significant break.

Once I have got to this point, I am generally not really able to stay in the situation safely unless the person already has a good understanding of the fact that they could be doing stuff which is seriously overwhelming me.

The only way that seems to happen, is when that person has experience of that happening for themself.  It means that when I say “this is getting too much for me,” the response is just automatically “Oh, sorry, what can we do to make it work?”

Otherwise, it usually requires me to leave in order to not get into a worse and worse state, where it will take longer time to recover.

Sense of opinion not being important in this house.

When I was talking with the cleaning lady about 2 weeks ago, I said “my opinion doesn’t really matter here” because it seems like it just is not all that well respected.

I’m not sure I can say a whole lot, beyond just giving examples of how when I want something, that I pretty much have to provide it for myself, or go without.

Using tools to organize time.

I have been trying to use a variety of tools to organize my time, and keep me on track with the things which I have been meaning to do with my time.

I probably can not really come up with all the different tools I have used.  But a variety of pen and paper tools, and a variety of computer based tools.

I started to use computers as a tool to keep me on track with my day to day stuff about when I was 10.  At that time, it was not all that common of a thing to do for anyone.  Especially not someone who is in grade 3.

Lately, I have moved more to keeping track of things with “pen and paper” as that just is something that (right now) just works better than any of the online tools which I have been using.

Bullet Journal

About a month ago (I think… Just over actually) I started to use the Bullet Journal (apparently it is a proper noun, as it is some sort of formal system) because I saw a video which made it “make sense” as to how it would make things work for me.

I have written a couple (or is it more) posts about that:

So only a couple of different ones.  Though I have put bits and pieces in various other places as well.

This is kind of a “build your own” type of organization system, which is part of why things are done with pen and paper, as it really does work best that way, because you can use things as you see fit.

Medication Log

The medication log which is part of my Bullet Journal is probably the most commonly used feature.  I have created a “print and fill out” version of the medication log, and I am feeling that I have a good enough way of handling that that I really think that my medications are working far better than they were before they were before.

The interesting thing about my medications is that I have “repeats” from every day, to a repeat which is 5 days (I don’t think there is a 6 day repeat), with every number of days between.  This means that if I want to make sure that things are not “breaking down” I really need to write things down so that I can make sure that I remember what I was doing the previous “week” (I fill 11 days at a time, which is weird, but most things I do are.

So, the medication log not only is something that is getting me to “touch base” with my bullet journal on a more regular basis, but it is also something that I need to keep track of things in a helpful way.

Letting “failings” be an OK thing.

I am starting to learn that when things don’t work the way that I plan, that this actually is an OK thing.  Ie. while I usually felt when I planned things that I should have been able to do those things, it is still OK that I didn’t get it done.

A lot of this seems like it can be “largely beyond my capability of handling things.”  Sometimes things which happen are really beyond my control.

Still, it means that I have to end up “catching up” which I find is often just a little too difficult for me.  But I also often am unrealistic in terms of my abilities to get things done.  I just am far more ambitious than I am really able to achieve.

Giving time to other people, when I don’t want to.

One of the big things that ends up doing me in, is that quite often I find myself giving other people “energy” which I really have no intention to give, and it often ends up coming at the expense of not only not being able to get enough done, but to actually end up getting very little back.

I really think that is pretty much “things done”.  I think that right now, I am not going to be putting a lot of pictures up here, as how I have been managing them, I am considering dropping entirely.  So, for now, you get boring posts which are mostly text.  Or entirely text…

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