MEETING REPORT: Executive Functioning Issues in Autism

MEETING REPORT: Executive Functioning Issues in Autism

Report from the talk given by Dr Louise Connor, Chartered Clinical Psychologist via video – 1st April 2021.

The NAS Surrey Branch was delighted to host Louise’s talk, followed by a Q&A session.

Louise gave an overview of the symptoms of executive functioning difficulties, and whilst these can vary, they often include problems with:

  • Getting started with tasks
  • Focussing on the small detail and not the bigger picture
  • Correctly judging the amount of time that a task will take
  • Pacing the work – not too fast / slow / messy
  • Learning from feedback

Louise explained that ‘executive’ skills include:

  • Impulse control
  • Emotional control
  • Flexibility
  • Working memory
  • Self-monitoring
  • Planning and prioritising
  • Task initiation

Difficulties with executive skills can result in problems for mental health, increased anxiety and depression. They can also have an adverse effect on self-esteem, as people can compare themselves to others who can manage executive tasks, or creating feelings of paranoia that others are judging.

When talking about management and intervention, Louise suggested:

  • Breaking down tasks into individual elements
  • Identifying each step for a task
  • Asking for help

Louise felt that the word “just” was often overused and unhelpful. For example, when asking someone if they could “just”  do something they find challenging, rather than focusing on what the person can do.

Questions from family members

Many attendees asked how to improve delivering feedback, and Louise gave many suggestions, including explaining that everyone has some things they can’t do well.

Others asked about how to help those who hoard, and a useful suggestion was to agree that we could have X number of boxes of stuff, but when we get to X+1 then we need to sort, take to the charity shop or throw away.

Our thanks to Louise for her time and expertise. You can find out about what she offers via her website:

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