The Paradox of the Adult Autistic Brain

INTRODUCTION
There isn’t really much in the way of information to be found when it comes to the adult Autistic brain and aging. Most of what can be found online involves Autism in children.

Add this to information I’ve received from experts, and it paints a picture that is odd and confusing, because it seems that the brain is going in two separate directions at the same time. To be more accurate, the brain is anchored in one place far away, while advancing to another place far away.

The path is between youthful and elderly.


THE YOUNG SIDE
The therapist who had initially diagnosed me back in 2017 recognized that I would speak in certain ways that were conflicting. I would sound like an old person talking like a young person, or vice versa.

On the young side, he suggested that it appeared that I am emotionally frozen in time at around age 16. Fortunately for me, I was already a responsible human by that age, working a summer job, and purchasing and maintaining a car, as well as taking on all of my responsibilities at home and school.

My attitude, at times, is that of a teenager.


THE OLD SIDE
At the same time, this therapist noted that Autism can age the brain in a profound, accelerated way.

He suggested that I may have the brain function of an 83-year-old man. He then added, “a relatively healthy 83-year-old man.”

He expressed concerns that I could experience cognitive decline, which can start as early as 45 years of age. As I write this, my brain is approaching double that age.


HAVE I NOTICED ANYTHING?
As I think back, I do recall first noticing a decline in my Executive Function as early as 2009. There was a decrease in self-control and flexible thinking. I also started having more difficulty with focusing and making decisions.

Overall, there are 7 executive functions:

  1. Proficiency in Adaptable Thinking: This involves adjusting, as necessary, to overcome instantaneous obstacles. To me, my performance can vary, depending upon the situation. In a work environment, there is too much pressure to say and do the right thing, under threat of being fired, losing your home, and starving to death on the streets. I will often times fold up due to the pressure. I do fine when I am sitting here, alone, thinking on my own about something I want to think about.
  2. Planning: With regard to this, I think that I do rather well. This area is of no concern.
  3. Self-Monitoring: I’ve historically been bad at this, but some self-awareness and work has helped me to improve this. But I would have problems with this in a work environment. This was especially true of my last job, which had an open floor plan. This adds a great deal of unintended distractions, and also encourages people to be even more distracting, under the banner of “collaboration.” I suspect that I perform as well as my environment allows.
  4. Self-Control: This breaks down into four segments. My control of physical movement appears to be fine. Emotion control is an area where I need more work, although I don’t know if it can be repaired. My concentration also depends on the environment, and work environments do nothing to contribute to concentration. Finally, my ability to control impulses seems to be fine, although I could be wrong.
  5. Working Memory: This is something that is also impacted by the environment. In my normal life at home, I’d rate this as an 8-9 on a scale of 10. But at work, I’d have to rate it as 5-6, which isn’t great.
  6. Time Management: My time management is stellar at home. At work, it’s hard to say since there are usually so many people pushing, pulling, and demanding time, to the point that it cannot be predicted, and is therefore difficult to utilize.
  7. Organization: Another one where it’s stronger at home than work. I am sensing a theme here.

I don’t know if this puts me closer to 87 than 57, but I hope to find out.


IN THE END
On a personal level, all of this leads me to moments where I feel like a teenager, to the point that I’ll have to stop and remind myself that I am not. But at the same time, I feel like an old man whose life is over and has been over for decades.

This is why I don’t sit on a lawn, waiting for young hooligans to trample my grass. My response to them would be too confusing.

“Look, guys, it would be unironically based if you could be a good PogChamp and get the FUCK off my lawn, you filthy ragamuffins!”

“GG. Poggers.”


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Published by DrumWild

Writing about drums, music, and philosophy.

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