Thursday, May 12, 2011

Executive functioning: When it all collides

Like most people with AS, I have a few issues with executive functioning.  Executive functioning is pretty much the ability to plan and make decisions, as well as to change plans when necessary.  It's the ability set which not only allows for short-term planning like going to the counter to get a banana, peeling the banana and eating it, but also for more complex long-term plans, like saving for college or finding a job.  It is what allows us to refuse a food because we know we shouldn't eat it even though we want it, like if we're on a diet.

Now that I'm home from school for the summer, I help out around the house while my parents are at work.  Every morning, my mom leaves me a note with what she needs me to do.  Usually it's something like loading the dishwasher or putting away laundry, but occasionally it's more complex, like vacuuming.  This is where I start to get confused sometimes and I need her to be more specific.  If others aren't specific with me on a task, I can't get it done or I do it and then panic because I think I did it wrong.

This morning she left me a note asking me to call two dentists about appointments.  However, she didn't tell me a few details, so I'm still trying to figure it out.  This is how I'm executing it with my current information.

  • A note is left for me telling me to call the dentists.  It has the phone numbers of both businesses.
  • Thinking back to yesterday, I can know that we talked about needing to schedule to have a cavity filled at dentist A and about cancelling a cleaning at dentist B.  What she didn't tell me was if I was supposed to reschedule the cancelled cleaning with dentist A, who I'm moving all my appointments to.
  • I can pick up the phone and call dentist A and talk to them about scheduling the filling.  The calendar is right next to the phone so I can check what days I'm available and find a time which would work.
  • I confirm the date and time with them, then write those on the correct space of the calendar.
  • Then I get stuck because I don't know how to handle the cancellation yet, so I have to wait until mom comes home to confirm what I need to do with her.

People being vague is one of the most frustrating things in the world for me (and, I'm assuming, for other aspies).  Our society is not one of concrete, absolute details and tasks.  It's a world of maybes and unaccounted for variables.  This is what makes it so frustrating to work with others.  A lot of NTs get annoyed when you probe them for details, they expect you to read their minds and when you don't get the mind reading right, they are disappointed or mad.

So how do I deal with executive processing most of the time?  If it doesn't involve other people, I'm usually able to motivate myself and find solutions for when I'm overwhelmed or confused.  If I'm alone in planning, I make lists, diagrams and spreadsheets.  If I'm not alone, I just try to keep asking and writing down exactly what they say.  The person might be a little annoyed or get frustrated repeating themselves, but I think that it's better than being afraid to ask and doing the whole thing wrong.

1 comment:

  1. Just wanted to say that I know exactly how you feel when it comes to people not being specific. I have Aspergers Syndrome as well, so I'm glad to know that it is not just me who gets frustrated when people are vague. I am like 'Tell me EXACTLY what you want so that I can do it correctly' For me, I get very afraid to ask questions so I end up not asking and just not doing anything. I know it is bad but I don't like being a burden to people and asking over and over and over again what it is I should do... unless it is family then I ask until I get an answer that I can comprehend. :) ~A Squared~