Executive functioning

Executive functioning is a group of skills that help people stay on track.

Staying on track means things like:

  • Following a plan
  • Starting something new
  • Stopping what you are doing
  • Remembering what to do next
  • Moving on to the next thing

For example:

Emily works as a waiter at a restaurant.
She is in charge of a few things.
First, she has to help set up the restaurant.
Then, people come to the restaurant.
Now, she has to help customers order food.
When people are done eating, she has to clean up.

Emily uses a lot of executive functioning.
She has to start a lot of things.
She has to stop them when she’s done.
She has to plan and remember what to do next.

Autistic people can have a hard time with executive functioning.
It may be hard to make a plan for what to do.
It may be hard to start something new or stop what you’re doing.
It may be hard to remember what you want to do.

Executive functioning problems can feel like being lazy.
But having problems with executive functioning is not being lazy. You are not lazy.
People with executive functioning problems want to do something.
But we might not be able to without help.

Executive functioning problems can feel like riding a stubborn horse.
No matter what you want, the horse ignores you!
If you want the horse to run forward, it stays still.
If you want the horse to stop, it keeps running.
If you want the horse to change directions, it keeps going forward.
In this example, the horse is your brain and body.
You might want to do something, but you just can’t do it.

Executive functioning is hard for us.
We might need extra support.
That’s okay!
It’s okay to need help.