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Executive Functioning and College

Discussion in 'Help and Support' started by inkfingers, Mar 27, 2021.

  1. inkfingers

    inkfingers 21 year old artist

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    So it’s been a while since I was on this forum, but recently I developed a problem that I need advice on.

    I’m currently in my last semester of college. It has taken me three and a half years to get close to finishing my AA because I usually take less credits than an average student each semester. Taking a normal amount of college classes causes me to become overwhelmed, anxious, and burnt out. I had been doing well with classes in the past year, so my mom suggested I try taking a normal work load so that I can finish up college this summer. The semester started out alright, but about a quarter way in I started falling behind in a couple of classes and started forgetting assignments and due dates. Now I have several uncompleted assignments and my grades are dropping quickly.

    In the past I have always gotten good grades, but I can’t seem to keep track of all my classes, and when I sit down to work on homework I become overwhelmed at all the steps I need to take to complete it. I get anxious about my homework, so then I do something else to relax, but then I forget I had homework in the first place.

    Is my lack of organization and bad time management skills an executive functioning problem, or am I just being lazy? I feel really stuck. I want to work on assignments but I don’t know where to start. I’ve tried starting projects but I get overwhelmed at the amount of work and lose focus.

    Does anyone have advice for managing schoolwork? I feel like I need someone to walk me through things, but am too ashamed to ask my teachers or parents for help. I feel like I’m being lazy and need to “just do it” but I keep on freezing up.

    Sorry for the long post. Any advice is welcome.
     
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  2. Thinx

    Thinx Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    This does sound like poor Executive function which is commonly part of autism. If your autism is already known at college they shouldn't be surprised by this, and should be able to help with strategies and support. Don't be ashamed, there's no shame in having poor Executive function and it's certainly not fun either, we aren't doing it on purpose.

    I muddled through school and university and generally felt I didn't get the grades I could have. Mainly due to a disorganised approach to learning. This also affects my memory and even things like not being able to find things. Although I generally vaguely know where things are in the piles of stuff I generate.

    It didn't stop me getting some good jobs, and doing well generally. I would advise getting any help and support that's there for you. Is a good grade important, or could you just concentrate on your best areas and make sure you are adequate in other areas?
     
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  3. Finder

    Finder Active Member

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    You are not lazy.

    Does your college have any office that can offer support and help you develop the skills to help you manage? Do not feel bad about approaching your teachers, that is part of their job to help you. Simply explain your condition. At least, they should be able to point you to someone that can help. One important skill is to learn to ask for help. People want you to succeed. But if you stay quiet, they they can only judge you based on results, which are not enough to understand.
     
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  4. inkfingers

    inkfingers 21 year old artist

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    Right now I’m less focused on grades and more of just trying to survive and finish the semester without failing any classes.
     
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  5. inkfingers

    inkfingers 21 year old artist

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    My college has disability services for students who need extra help/ time to complete assignments, but you have to fill out paperwork to qualify for the services. I’ve never had to inform anyone about my autism before, so I feel like it would be awkward if I only asked for help now.

    You are right about learning to ask for help though. Last year I had to drop out of classes due to a medical/psychiatric emergency, and all my teachers were very understanding. I don’t know why I’m so nervous about asking for help. I guess I don’t want anyone to judge me for my disability.
     
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  6. Fino

    Fino Alex V.I.P Member

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    You should be writing everything down. Forgetting assignments and due dates is a choice you've made. Use a planner or something. Reminders on your phone. Whatever.
     
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  7. Thinx

    Thinx Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    Yes but it sounds like you need help and support in order to do that. But I understand if you don't want to approach anyone, it depends if you can find strategies yourself. At the moment you seem to have decided not to get help but also haven't found any workable strategies yet, but time is running short.

    Tough love! It's true though that having a paper diary with all the dates in it for assignments, and some planning of what I would try to do was what got me through my different qualifications. Even when I was short of time I would plan out my hours on paper, and hand something in.

    I also found breaking the work up into sections was helpful. And if there's a word count, splitting it between the sections. I still use this approach to break down tasks and get things done. You could also get a study skills book, which would contain the type of guidance they would give you if you asked for help.
     
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  8. Progster

    Progster Gone sideways to the sun V.I.P Member

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    I would write a list of things you have to do, in order of their priority/deadline. Then get a diary or planner and schedule these into the planner - for example, Monday morning 10-12am, work on assignment. Then break for an hour, Then a couple more hours in the afternoon. Or evening, if that will suit you better. Or you could do it by chapter/section if you wanted - focus on just getting one bit done at a time. Best not to schedule too many hours on one task, so you don't get burned out from it. Establish a routine - you know that at certain times of the day that's what you'll be doing, once it becomes part of your routine and is no longer new, it should be easier.
     
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  9. Bibliophile715

    Bibliophile715 host/main - first system member - any pronouns

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    [Edward]
    It is very possible one can get stressed out and overwhelmed from the amount of work that they have to do. Perhaps just taking tasks one by one would help and not thinking about everything that you're behind in all at once as to us that can seem like it would definitely be anxiety causing.

    We're not sure if this would work for you, but perhaps setting up some sort of an academic calendar or homework tracker would help for your organization as then you could see things visually. To us this seems more like an executive functioning problem as stress can certainly cause this kind of thing. We hope you'll figure out something that works for you.
     
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  10. Neonatal RRT

    Neonatal RRT Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    This is coming from the perspective of someone who is an Aspie, who is working full time at a busy hospital, married, raised two kids, has had a long list of special interests,...and is a part-time educator at a local university. What you are describing, as others have suggested, is typical autism-related anxieties and executive functioning issues.

    The only thing I have done to keep my world straight is to get my day organized. At work, it is making out my daily assignment with a list and check boxes. When I was in school, much of my class work was memorization, whether it be learning "three things that...", "name 4 drugs that...", "this type of chemical reaction is called...", "the formula for...." I made out my own flash cards and went through them daily,...as I could not retain what I was reading,...I had to break things down to their most simplest components and repeatedly go over the material I had created. I would end up with 50 or 100 flash cards for each class by the end of the semester. I did very well in school once I got a system down that worked for me. I ended up being very good at learning facts by this method.

    The lack of focus, at least for me, usually creeps in as a result of increasing stress and anxiety, lack of sleep, poor diet,...all leading to varying degrees of "autism burnout". I went almost into a "manic phase" at one point early in my education,...literally, "incapable" of focusing upon my classes,...my mind racing on everything but what I was supposed to be focusing on. I ended up dropping classes,...not good. So,...I do have some understanding of what you are going through,...been there. It's a difficult thing trying to stay "on the rails" sometimes.

    Now that I am older and aware of these things now,...usually the brain gets a bit overwhelmed and gets into a hyperexcitable state. It produces an excess amount of oxidative "free radicals", which causes inflammation,...and the brain does not fire properly and you end up just being in this chronic state of mental exhaustion, lack of behavior modulation, etc. My suggestion: (1) Good sleep. This may mean taking supplements like melatonin, L-theanine, and chelated magnesium (I do a cocktail). (2) Antioxidant supplements like N-acetyl cysteine, SAM-e, and CoQ10/Ubiquinol to decrease brain inflammation. (3) I know all too well about carbohydrates/sugars and dopamine release,...but,...these foods also stimulate brain inflammation, diminishing brain function. Rather, find foods that are higher in poly and mono unsaturated fats for energy sources. Keto diet. (4) Fasting,...It may seem counterintuitive, but once you are into a ketosis state (usually takes about 16-20 hrs of fasting), your brain functions extremely efficiently,...like zero thoughts beyond what you are doing,...a clarity comes over you. It's an amazing feeling that will wash over you almost like a "high".

    You can try one thing at a time, but needless to say, when you are putting your brain through the paces of a heavy class load and still have a life to live, responsibilities, a job, etc. This puts a lot of extra strain on the brain,...and you have to recognize this,...and you need to take extra care.
     
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  11. inkfingers

    inkfingers 21 year old artist

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    I have tried writing things down and planning out my schedule, but then I forget I even wrote something in the first place. I literally have to try to remember to remind myself to remember to do something... if that makes any sense.
     
  12. FIVER

    FIVER Well-Known Member

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    I remember those days. I have had the same feelings. This may not seem like much advice...you just need to press on. I have had to force myself. Since I have processing issues I would tape my lectures, fill in my notes and rewrite my notes. I would use colored note cards and write important concepts.
    It may seem silly but I would put boxes around things that I would write.
    If it was a math problem or similar I would write down what I know first. This helps organize my thoughts.
    The first part is having the willpower or discipline to start in the first place.
    ..you will get through this.
     
  13. VictorR

    VictorR Random Member V.I.P Member

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  14. FIVER

    FIVER Well-Known Member

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    Alarms on your phone might help. Multiple alarms.
    Sending emails to yourself. I'm sure there are other ideas.
     
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  15. Neonatal RRT

    Neonatal RRT Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    Perhaps this is useful: I remember many years ago, I was at a medical conference. The speaker was a pediatric cardiologist. He started the lecture out with a story of when he was in training. His mentor explained to a group of young, training physicians (which he was a part of), that, "There are two types of great physicians,...those that are truly brilliant,...and those that are methodical." His mentor, looking around towards the group of young physicians, he then said, "In your case,...be methodical." as he wanted the group to recognize that none of them were brilliant. We got a laugh at self-humility to start the lecture,...but the point of the story,...be methodical about your approach, have a system, and you will be less likely to miss something along the way.

    Personally, I have my calendar on my phone which I use first,...it's what I use while "on the fly",...quick and easy. I set the alarm/reminder timers, when appropriate. When I get home at the end of the day,...I recheck my phone,...and write new information down on our large "master calendar". The master calendar is the big calendar that my wife and I both will write work schedules, appointments, etc. on,...so we know what each other is doing any given day.

    If you are writing things down on pieces of paper one time...in your pocket one time, in your school bag another time, etc, then on a calendar another, in your phone yet another time,...things are disorganized and are going to be missed. Pick ONE way to do it,...and don't deviate from it.

    My boys, when they were in school, found it useful to have a large, dry-erase board in their room which they wrote down all of their assignments/homework and the dates things were due. They did the "check box" thing, checking things off as they completed those assignments. Often times, they would actually be well ahead in their school work. They were less likely to procrastinate.
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2021
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  16. Fino

    Fino Alex V.I.P Member

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    Do you have a smart phone?