Sticky Thought in Autism: "Make Up Your Mind Day"

The autistic brain is sticky. The brain pathways through the center and front of the brain that are supposed to allow on us to stick onto what's important, and to let go of what's not important, aren't doing the job we wish they were for those on the spectrum. The ASD individual is more likely than others to get stuck on a thought or a way of doing things. He may struggles when things change or when faced with new decisions. He may resist interruptions, not wanting to switch gears.

Sometimes you will hear the individual say "I'll think about it" when the decision needs to be made NOW! (like a leaky roof or a medical problem). It can seem that the more "pushed" the individual feels, the more resistant their brain becomes to showing the needed flexibility and shift. They are stuck in the "mud of indecision", unable to move forward or adapt to changes.

Keep in mind that "pushing harder" doesn't help the ASD individual get "unstuck." You are more likely to experience even more "push back" and resistance. Try some of these strategies instead...

1. Don't Rely on Talking and Reasoning

I know this sounds counter intuitive, but after you have presented the facts once or twice, the resistance really isn't coming for the person's lack of factual knowledge. Even though it seems intuitive to keep having the same discussion again and again until we reach a different outcome, this strategy is unlikely to help the ASD person to flex and bend.

After a while, talking is just noise. The "pusher" is likely to leave frustrated, and the ASD individual is likely to hide, freeze, or explode without any real progress toward decision making.

2. Try Offering Two Options

Sometimes (not always!), you can "get the ball rolling" by saying "So, this is what is going to happen [e.g., So you are going to have a procedure to remove your gall bladder]. Would you like me to come with you or Jack to come?" Sometimes the individual will take the conclusion (surgery is needed) with a grain of salt if it is presented in a matter of fact manner, along with some options he can decide on (e.g. who would you like to go with you?).

3. Offer Small Bites

Instead of presenting everything about the surgery at once, try offering small bits first and building on those. "The doctor says she can help your pain by taking out your gallbladder. The infection is what's giving you trouble. That's good to know. At least there is a solution." Then later, add additional information such as "Today we're running two errands. First, I need to stop by the grocery store. Then we'll stop by the medical building where they are going to help you with your pain next week. While we are there today, you can see the building and meet the doctor who will help on Wednesday."

This strategy is as if to say, "You don't have to process all that information right now. Today, all you have to process is this little bit."

What can you do to help an ASD individual "make a decision" today?

#autism #adultautism

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