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Tackle that to-do list: tips for executive dysfunction and autism

Updated: Apr 11, 2023

Executive dysfunction is a common aspect of the day-to-day difficulties that can leave Autistics exhausted, frustrated, and with little to show for their gargantuan efforts. With these tips for managing executive dysfunction and autism, you can help yourself or someone you know to find solutions that actually get things done!



Learn the basics


Executive functioning can be thought of as the little manager in your brain that tells you what to do, when, and how to do it. It deals with things like time management, focus, emotional regulation, and making decisions. People with various cognitive disabilities experience executive dysfunction, where there is some difficulty or disruption in one or more aspects of executive functioning.


Can't get anything crossed off your to-do list? It might be executive dysfunction! Difficulty with time management, staying focused, regulating emotions, and making decisions. Autism Personal Coach.

Autistic people do not have a unique profile of executive dysfunction--the ways Autistic people experience this dysfunction are all different, and can mirror those with other kinds of disabilities such as ADHD or TBI (traumatic brain injury).



Remove "lazy" from your vocabulary


Some autistic people who struggle with executive dysfunction may have been told that they're lazy or unmotivated, but it's just not true! Most struggles with "laziness" are actually caused by executive dysfunction. Lazy is an imposter!


Calling someone lazy implies that they have no concept of a task's importance and that they lack the necessary motivation. But someone who's struggling with executive dysfunction is usually bursting with urgency and motivation--their brain just won't "get into gear."


Recognize the signs


If these experiences are relatable to you or a loved one, there may be executive functioning issues at play:

  • Feeling hungry, but you can't make food

  • Frustration over unwanted tasks

  • Struggling to put thoughts into words

  • Difficulty making decisions when there's no "right" answer

  • Poor working memory or inconsistent memory

  • Experiencing overwhelm when a big task has many small steps


Work with your brain, not against it


If there are times where your brain doesn't seem to be working with you, no matter what your desires are or how strongly you want them, then you may be experiencing executive dysfunction. While there's no "cure," the Coaches at Autism Personal Coach are very practiced in helping our clients manage this neurodivergent trait. We can help you find ways to work with your brain instead of against it!


Once executive dysfunction is more under control, many people's lives drastically improve. If you or someone you know struggles with executive functioning issues, contact us to learn how APC can help you.

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