Executive Function

From the "Ask a Question" area…
My son has Aspergers and he is very bright. However, I think what is difficult is that he has difficulty in Executive Function and I feel this will affect his learning as he grows older. Did you have the difficulty in EF and how did you cope with it? Any suggestions would be appreciated.
Executive function (and, therefore, executive dysfunction) refers to one's ability or inability to organize daily routines required to function optimally in relationships, at school, at work, and within any community. When someone lacks impulse control, focus, and the ability to prioritize tasks, that individual suffers from impaired executive function.

To describe me as "scattershot" would be generous. Finishing projects requires Herculean efforts, and I admit that more often I fail than succeed when it comes to my to-do list.

Projects end up almost done, and I have the boxes of work to prove it. Getting through the day can be a challenge, especially if I want to do something other than what I must do.

When something interests me, other tasks end up ignored, sometimes with negative consequences.

How do I succeed then? How is it that someone with so many "incompletes" in life can have any professional stability?

Well, if only I could describe myself as truly "successful" in the traditional sense. I teach part-time, having been unable to adapt to a situation that didn't suit my needs. I write plays because I couldn't type the novels in my mind without getting bored — scripts are shorter and faster to type.

The simple reality is that without my wife, I'd be working part-time somewhere, trying to survive, forgetting when I have appointments even though they are in my calendar and I set alarms for them. I'm not self-sufficient, as she can attest. Even when I've had to manage the house alone, she will call me and message me to remind me of tasks I need to complete.

I must approach my life like a business management problem. I use calendars, and was an early adopter of the Palm Pilot, and then an iPod Touch. I need alarms and lists. I keep lists, and I print them. I also print my calendars, since I might forget to look at a smartphone screen.

Technically, you could call me a successful playwright. That's only possible because I track submissions, registrations, acceptances, and so on. Okay, my wife actually handles that side of things. She also makes sure I don't forget deadlines. But, I do try to help by printing things to the printer in her office, so she can file papers and add events to calendars for me.

No, I'm lost without supports. I panic and collapse without someone to make sure I get from A to B on a daily basis. I have a teaching assistant at the university, and she's amazing. (Let us hope the next TA is good, too!) I have another assistant helping with theater projects. Again, others are helping me succeed.

Maybe this isn't the best answer for parents and autistics to read, but my situation is that I need someone to be those executive functions for me. I need a good managing partner. Without friends, family, and assistants, I'm not certain what would be possible.

I'm from a modest background, so my parents sacrificed a great deal of their time and energy to ensure my success. My failure to focus and my inability to deal with lousy situations often cost my friends and family, not only time and energy, but sometimes money.

The fact that I did complete the doctorate is something owed to my wife, a support specialist, and a handful of administrative faculty at the university. It was not easy on me, or on them. I came close to not finishing the degree, exhausted by the negative experiences and the conflicts common within graduate programs.

It isn't easy, and success isn't accomplished alone.
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  1. EF can be taught. Survival skills can be learned. We have a son in the U levels in Gr 9 and pulled his business course to put in Resource (a locally developed - straight to work course) next semester. This course teaches survival skills - how you learn, how you study, how to work in groups etc. Today we had a meeting with the ASD itinerant teacher and she will pull him out 2 days/mth to focus on 5 "asd" skills we need addressed. Next year, he'll take Resource again... repeat.

    As I said to her... I don't want to miss a skill that today may not matter but he hits his 20's and... he can't cope. Being "different" is fine when you are a cute kid, but ignoring life skills are not cute as an adult.

    Will it make him "normal".... no... but that isn't the point.


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