Autism Acceptance Month – Day 17 – Executiv...

Executive function is a broad term that refers to the cognitive processes that help us regulate, control, and manage our thoughts and actions. It includes planning, working memory, attention, problem solving, verbal reasoning, inhibition, cognitive flexibility, initiation of actions, and monitoring of actions.

— Do you experience executive functioning issues?  How do you deal with it? —

Yes, yes I do. There are some days where simple tasks such as doing the dishes or taking the trash out seem very daunting. My brain literally cannot figure out the steps involved to start doing those tasks, even though I have done them many times in the past. Sometimes I get very overwhelmed just thinking about starting something, so some days I have to just rest to recoup my mental processing spoons.

Have some other examples of executive functioning issues: One might need to clean the living room, but they’re not sure which part of the room to start cleaning first. Or, they might need to figure out which thing to clean first to make room for something else that may need cleaned off. And so forth. What may seem like a simple task for many, is not for Autistics. We tend to get stuck a lot because we cannot move on to a different step until the current step has been completed. When we are having trouble with figuring that out we tend to get frustrated and overwhelmed.

So if you are having executive functioning issues, I suggest taking a break. Maybe read a book, or play a video game you enjoy for a short bit, or even take a short nap. I find those tend to help me get my brain calmed down a bit and to be able to think a bit clearer. Once I can think clearer, I usually have an easy time figuring out how to go about whatever task is at hand. If you still need help figuring out what to do, ask your close friend or maybe a family member to help you break the task down into smaller steps.

Autism Acceptance Month – Day 16 – Comfort ...

Comfort items are a huge thing for Autistics. They help us have something we are familiar with when we are in unfamiliar places. I have had many of them throughout the years, but, since today is Easter, I want to talk about one in particular. I will touch on my other comfort items in another post later this month.

When I was younger I used to get a plush bunny every year as an Easter gift. Sometimes, I would even get to pick mine out from the store. That is what happened with the bunny that became my comfort item for many many years. I believe I got her from Hallmark. I can clearly see in my memories that she was sitting on one of the clear glass shelves at the Northland Mall Hallmark store, though I forget what year I got her.

Anyways this small little bunny plush became one of my comfort items. I had to have her in bed with me when I slept. I took her with me whenever I spent the night at a friend’s house. I used to rub her ear with my fingers – as you can see, the fabric on her right ear has become quite flattened. There was one time that I became very distressed when I “lost” her while at a friend’s house. Luckily, I found her only moments later stuck in the couch where I had slept. From around 1999-ish to 2003-ish this was one of my comfort objects. I still love this bunny plush to death. Now she sits on my desk in my office room safe and sound, and I sometimes still rub her ear.

Happy Easter everyone!

Autism Acceptance Month – Day 15 – Communic...

— Are you verbal? Semi-verbal? Nonverbal?  —

I am verbal some of the time, but that is usually only if I am around people I am comfortable with. Or if I get to info-dump about things I love.

For the majority of the rest of the time, I am actually semi-verbal. My words don’t really like to work right. I have them in my head, but attempting to speak them doesn’t always work out the way I want. Sometimes I have the word I want to use in my thoughts, but I can’t access that word for speech. For example, one time I was at the store with my husband to get items for baking cookies. Well, I wanted to ask him to help me find the parchment paper. I had the concept/idea of parchment paper in my head, but all I could get out of my mouth was “baking, baking” and trying to mime the size of the box I was looking for. My husband was quite confused by me. I finally looked up and found the box I wanted. There have been many more instances where things like that have happened.

Non-verbal happens quite a bit. Sensory issues can cause it to happen, and so can any fights with friends or family. Not feeling well can also cause it. It’s always an odd feeling when you have the words in your head but the path to your mouth for speaking is disconnected.

— How do you usually communicate? —

I actually do most of my communication via typing on my laptop, tablet, or phone. Even with my husband being in the next room, we still sometimes just type at each other. I actually find written communication a lot easier for me and I don’t loose any access to my words.

I learned an interesting fact when my best friend was in the hospital for his brain tumor. The doctors were afraid that, because of the location where his tumor was in his brain, he might loose speech when they removed it. However, they said he would still be able to communicate by typing on a device or writing on paper. Apparently written communication and speech communication are in different areas of the brain. My best friend ended up still being able to speak after the operation, as his brain had changed where his speech centers were to avoid the tumor.

Speaking for me becomes really slow sometimes. Slow as in trying to figure out how to get words to go from my head out of my mouth. I can actually feel them being slower to process. My husband can tell when this happens, though apparently some of my other friends can’t. When I mentioned it was happening the last time I saw a large group of my friends in person, they said they couldn’t hear any difference in how fast my speech was working.

If you have an Autistic person in your life you care about, please let them communicate in the way they feel most comfortable. It will make them much happier and save them a lot of energy they could use for something else. So please don’t make fun of them or take away whatever they use to communicate, be it their phone with an AAC application, an actual AAC device, etc. If they aren’t comfortable using verbal speech, don’t push them. It’s not going to do anyone any good in the communication department if both parties are upset or fighting.