Executive dysfunction

From ActuallyAutistic Wiki

Executive dysfunction is a term used to describe a range of difficulties with cognitive processes that allow people to monitor and adjust their own behaviour to reach a certain goal or intention.

Neurology stuff[edit]

Add details about brain function, prefrontal cortex, etc.

Examples of executive function[edit]

Executive function is essential for day-to-day life, doing things such as:

  • Initiating tasks
  • Staying on task / avoiding distractions
  • Task-switching

The term executive dysfunction is used to refer to impairments of the processes of executive function in general or to refer more specifically to specific traits associated with such an impairment.

Executive dysfunction is associated with Autism, ADHD, and some other neurodivergences [I know of Schizophrenia, maybe others as well?].

Traits associated with executive dysfunction[edit]

Maybe add paragraph of how this feels for each point?

  • Struggling with task initiation
  • Struggling to interrupt hyperfocus to do something else
  • Struggling to get back to tasks after being interrupted
  • Making plans and setting goals


These are just things that I have tried and that help me or things I have others talk about. Please add to them and if they don't work for you: It's not your fault, just try something else instead.

Keep tools and workplaces at "point of performance"[edit]

Have everything ready to do the thing without cleaning and tidying for two hours before you can get started. Keep certain tools or items you need for a specific action or sequence of actions together in one place (example: store all ingredients for a specific meal you make all the time together in one container in the fridge).

Tell yourself you'll just do the thing for two minutes[edit]

Often it's hard to start because tasks feel overwhelming; try to get out of the "overwhelm-zone".

Break down tasks into smaller tasks[edit]

See above. Note that this can be done recursively, breaking down the smaller tasks into even smaller ones, until they're finally bitesized.

Use timers / stopwatches / alarms[edit]

This can make it easier to stick to a schedule if you tend to have "time-blindness" (often associated with ADHD).

Don't keep the reward for when you are done[edit]

Reward yourself during or even before you do the thing. Listen to your favourite music or an interesting podcast (hard mode: only listen to a special podcast while doing a specific thing you struggle to do). Get snacks out during studying. Make the experience of doing the thing as sensorily comfy as possible.

Get a friend or trusted person on board[edit]

It helps me immensely when someone else tells me that what I'm doing is benefiting them. Knowing that a friend will appreciate that I showered / did laundry / etc. helps me to do the thing more than simply wanting to do it could ever motivate me.