Asperger Syndrome and Executive Functioning

Ok, I have to return to the topic that was first brought up in “What do I do? What ‘should’ I do?” one more time. There is something that I forgot to discuss in the related series of posts that helps explain the whole situation even better. This will probably be the last time, at least for a long time, that I submit an entry related to this particular topic. Also, this post isn’t as long as many of the others I’ve been uploading lately because I honestly don’t have that much information to offer on this issue.

Anyway, so if you’ve already read the aforementioned post, you know that I will sometimes freak out and have a little mental breakdown if I have a particularly large number of responsibilities that need to be addressed. When this happens, I spend so much time worrying and stressing myself out that I can hardly get anything done at first. In many instances I will need the help of my parents or a counselor to help me calm down and get productive. I also explained that two important sources for this problem are my difficulties with time management, and my perfectionist tendencies – which includes a false belief that I’m never “good enough.”

There is yet another element to this topic that I neglected to mention in that first post. It actually explains to a considerable degree why I get overwhelmed so easily with schoolwork and other things. You see, my mother has told me that, since I have Asperger Syndrome, I struggle quite a bit with executive functions, which makes it more difficult for me to handle multiple responsibilities efficiently. What exactly are executive functions, you may ask? According to an article by Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child*, executive functions denotes the management of important cognitive processes that allow us to fulfill a variety of tasks. These processes include planning, short-term memory, problem-solving, reasoning, and self-control. So basically, they are the kinds of skills that facilitate multitasking.

In short, it appears that my mind sometimes has a bit difficulty engaging in these sorts of mental processes. This definitely sheds some light on many of my problems with stress, time management, social interaction, concentration, and even reading. Additionally, I have been able to verify from several sources** that many individuals with Asperger Syndrome suffer from a slight deficit in executive functioning, among other mental areas. Therefore, I can safely say that my brain might simply be setup so that it’s harder for me to manage many responsibilities at once without stressing out.

I’m afraid that I don’t really have much else to say about my issues with executive functions. I’m fairly certain my story isn’t really that different from other people who have Asperger Syndrome and suffer from deficits in executive functioning. It’s pretty much how our brains work, and there isn’t a whole lot we can do about it. After all, this is why Aspergers and Autism are called disorders.

Of course, I do not wish to imply that we are helpless victims or that there isn’t any way to cope with this issue. Far, FAR from it. There exists a vast multitude of ways in which children as well as adults with Aspergers or Autism can deal with their complications and be able to manage numerous tasks at once. I have already mentioned several tools that I use to help with ADD and anxiety, such as meditation, exercise, and audiobooks. I know of several other methods that individuals with Aspergers or Autism can improve their executive functions to some degree.

For instance, it can extremely helpful for Aspie students to have a checklist that breaks down each of their schoolwork assignments – dividing them into small, much more manageable parts. Some people also recommend having a sort of personal organizational system set up in their living space: with colored labels for where different items should go, reminders and checklists for various chores and tasks, and photos of what clean bedrooms and kitchens should look like. If you look online you should find dozens of recommended techniques, services, books, and iPhone apps to help children and adults on the Autism spectrum deal with their deficits in executive functions.

* http://developingchild.harvard.edu/key_concepts/executive_function/

** http://cirpstudents.com/Research%20Library/assets/another-advanced-test-of-theory-of- mind–evidence-from-very-high-functioning-adults–with-autism-or-asperger-syndrome-.pdfm, http://www.du.edu/psychology/dnrl/Executive%20function%20deficits%20in%20high-functioning%20autistic.pdf, http://www.sacramentoasis.com/docs/8-22-03/core_deficits.pdf, http://aut.sagepub.com/content/3/3/213.full.pdf, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1469-7610.1991.tb00352.x/abstract

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