Welcome to the first post of “Understanding Aspies” for 2018!
I originally wanted to give some tips first on how to set goals and keep them, but then I realized that one of the ways to help Aspies and High Functioning Autistics stick to their plans, schedules, and goals that they set for themselves for this New Year is to understand about executive function and the problems and challenges that they face with it.
Everyone has executive function. It’s that part of you that helps regulate and manage thought processes. Throughout the years, this helps you to be able to properly come up with decisions, plan, organize, manage and execute simple to complex tasks. This is the part of you that helps you figure out what to do in a stressful situation so that you can act on it right away, or the part of you that helps you stay on top of things. This is the part of you that can break complex things down into smaller bits of information that will help you decided what to do next. This is the part of you that allows you to take into consideration all the moving parts, and still be able to look at the bigger picture as a whole.
However, for those who have Asperger’s or High Functioning Autism, this part is usually impaired. This is seen in the way we have one track minds, cannot multi-task, seem to never keep track of stuff, seem inflexible when suddenly presented with new situations, miss out on steps in administrative tasks that seem fairly easy to others, how we are confused when presented with many options, have difficulty reacting quickly to situations or people, and the list goes on and on.
Because of this, many High Functioning Autistics have been labelled as uncooperative or lazy, especially in the workplace setting. However, we are just confused as to how to continue on.
For me, throughout the years, and through life coaching, sometimes, when situations crop up and I don’t know what to do, instead of panicking, I remember a chart that my therapist drew up in order to clear my mind so that I can start breaking things down in my head in list form so that I know what to do next. It was one of those charts with the “Yes” or “No” arrows, and you follow those options that lead to one of two answers. Other times, I remember how I responded before to similar situations.
However, just for this time, I’d like to focus more on how others can help us when it comes to keeping track of our lives, and how to help us plan, schedule and set goals that we can really follow up on.
For me, one of the biggest things that helped was actually breaking things down into smaller tasks. For example, if I needed to write a blog post on a television show, I would make a list of every single step and cross out everything I was able to do already. Once I accomplished all the smaller tasks, then I knew that I was able to accomplish the main task that I was supposed to do. It also helps me keep track of things as well.
Once I have a project in mind, or a main task, I take a look at my planner, and see how I can fit it in. For some things, like, for example, when I write and post my blog posts, has a fixed schedule. Changing that up for me is like upending my entire world, and then I’ll spend around half a day trying to rearrange and trying to fix things in a way that makes sense. Having a fixed schedule helps give us a routine that we can follow. We aren’t good at all when it comes to being flexible, but I have learned to have my fixed schedules that cannot be moved at all, and to allow some things to be flexible in between, as long as I am able to accomplish my tasks and goals for that week. If I am not able to do a particular sub task this week, I can easily move it to the next day and try again.
For the new year, it would be great to actually sit down, and talk to the Aspie or High Functioning Autistic, and talk about what they want to accomplish. From there, you can break things down into sub-tasks that allow them to accomplish that task or goal, and then see how you can create a time table for it, which then can be placed on a planner or calendar.
Having a planner that you can write things down really helps, although I also do have electronic ones as well.
With regards to schedules, sit down with that person, and see what their weekly schedule is like, or if they don’t have any particular schedule, you can help them by setting those sub-tasks, tasks, and the things that they really have to do on a daily basis on a calendar, while still allowing some lee way to adjust to things if other unexpected things come up, so that they can regroup and collect themselves first before doing anything else.
For me, I usually plan some things out for the entire month. I usually plot in events such as doctor’s appointments, hang outs with friends, and all the blog posts that I’ll be doing in the month in my calendar. Then, I try to follow a weekly schedule with some fixed things in it. For example, I write blog posts for this blog on Mondays and Wednesdays, so I can post them on Tuesdays and Thursdays. However, I do leave some lee way for things that come up, like if I have to take the dog to the vet or if I need some groceries right away. However, I make sure that whatever sub-tasks I had set for myself for the day that need to be done for the day are done, and the low priority tasks can be moved to the next day.
I think it’s also helpful to take some time to actually plot things out. For me, that’s usually at the end of the month, Sundays, and I also take some time in the morning and in the night to review my planner.
I hope that all of this helps you help the Aspie or High Functioning Autistic in your life set goals and properly plan things out for 2018!
I have found this to be a system that I can rely on, but, of course, some might have a different approach to it as well. Feel free to share your own planning systems if you have one, and let me know if you’ve ever applied it with your Aspie or High Functioning Autistic and if it worked for them.