Can anyone explain the theory of autistic inertia?

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Poke
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18 Oct 2011, 8:39 am

ediself wrote:
The basis of laziness is in its definition: not wanting to do something. We want to and cannot. It's different.


"Laziness" is merely a disinclination to activity. The desires of the lazy person need not enter the picture.



ToughDiamond
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18 Oct 2011, 8:40 am

Never heard of the theory before, but as an Aspie I think I know what they mean from the inside.

I've often felt that a lot of AS can be explained as a time issue, and inertia/momentum is a good way of describing it. I've said AS = juggernaut, NT = small car. We are "heavy," we can't turn round in a confined space, and our acceleration and braking are slow.

WIth inertia, sudden changes will naturally be a problem. Sure enough, it usually is with me. My boss makes a change to my job, my first reaction is anger. Once I'm used to it, provided it's not a particularly nasty change, I can't understand why I was so upset before. I was just getting used to finding my way around a rather maze-like building, when somebody repainted it. That change threw me and I was immediately lost again.

The only thing that surprises me about my experience of sudden change is that sometimes I don't mind........they recently made our street a "residents only" parking area, and suddenly there's loads of space. It doesn't upset me at all - admittedly there's no inconvenience to me as I don't drive, and it's easier for me to cross the road, and the whole thing feels moe spacious, but it's still a change, so why don't I feel bad about it? I don't think "well, it's a shame it had to be changed but the advantages outweigh the disadvantages." I simply never felt bad about it. There was a warning, but I didn't know what it would be like when it happened.



ediself
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18 Oct 2011, 9:02 am

Poke wrote:
ediself wrote:
The basis of laziness is in its definition: not wanting to do something. We want to and cannot. It's different.


"Laziness" is merely a disinclination to activity. The desires of the lazy person need not enter the picture.


But why not though? I'm pretty sure the reasons for an action or inaction influence the definition of the action! not hugging someone because you would hate to be hugged in their situation does not make you an uncaring person, it's not the same as "not giving a crap, thus not hugging", I really think it matters.
Plus , disinclination means "no real drive to" , and we do have the drive, we feel the urgency, we curse ourselves into action, we have panick attacks at the thought of the result of our inaction....
Let's not forget the disability here, asperger's in not a character flaw.



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18 Oct 2011, 10:30 am

Does anyone else have (or can explain) this inertia-related problem: Sometimes I obsess over a task I need to complete, run through the entire scenario from every different angle, and then my mind feels like the task is done. In other words completing the task in my mind "feels" just like actually completing it in the real world.

Example: I need to make a phone call to my bank. I imagine the script word-for-word, what I will say, what they will probably say back, how I will respond, how I will feel when I hang up the phone. Then I never actually make the phone call (until I get the notice two weeks later about the overdue payment).



ediself
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18 Oct 2011, 10:51 am

mushroo wrote:
Does anyone else have (or can explain) this inertia-related problem: Sometimes I obsess over a task I need to complete, run through the entire scenario from every different angle, and then my mind feels like the task is done. In other words completing the task in my mind "feels" just like actually completing it in the real world.

Example: I need to make a phone call to my bank. I imagine the script word-for-word, what I will say, what they will probably say back, how I will respond, how I will feel when I hang up the phone. Then I never actually make the phone call (until I get the notice two weeks later about the overdue payment).

Yes, same here. When I think of actually doing it, my mind feels like I have done it already. I can't explain it other than by visual thinking.....visualizing things feels just like the real thing. Picturing someone slapping me makes me feel the burning on the cheeck.



animalcrackers
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18 Oct 2011, 12:33 pm

I came across this article once http://archive.autistics.org/library/inertia.html. It's very detailed.


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18 Oct 2011, 1:21 pm

animalcrackers wrote:
I came across this article once http://archive.autistics.org/library/inertia.html. It's very detailed.


I'm glad you found that. I was looking for it. I posted it in a thread a long time ago and should have bookmarked it. Anyway, it's a good article I think.


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18 Oct 2011, 2:12 pm

This was in there too:

By Kalen Molton

I have a great deal of difficulty getting anything done, even when I
want to very much. I often just sit around doing absolutely nothing, or
continue doing one thing, for extended periods. I just can't get my
brain and body "in sync" with my goal. It's just impossible for me to
get started. On the other hand, I can easily get "stuck" in what I'm
doing and be unable to stop. The harder I push myself or someone pushes
me, the harder it is for me to get going. My friend long ago labeled
this problem "inertia".

Some personal examples:
- I don't eat until my stomach hurts, but when I start eating I don't
stop until either I'm uncomfortably full or all the food is gone.
- I don't pay bills until the day the company is going to disconnect me.
- I very rarely wash my dishes, clothes, or do other housework, but when
I get around to it, I can sometimes get lots done.
- I often avoid doing something as simple as changing the channel on the
TV.

I used to think the problem was laziness or procrastination, but it
appears to be more complex and it's not deliberate. Even when I am
highly motivated with enormous consequences (positive or negative), and
know what to do and how, I still don't do it. Instead, I sit and think
about it or plan exactly what I am going to do in minute detail.
Conversely, sometimes I get started, even on something I don't
particularly enjoy, and can't stop it. If I were just lazy, I don't
think I would do so much at times.

From my discussions with other autistics and their families, I have
found that this problem is relatively common in people of all
functioning levels. Some others even used the word "inertia" to describe
their problem as well. However, despite the frequency of it, there is
very little written about inertia-like problems in autistics.

---------------------------------------------
WHAT IS INERTIA?

In physics, the term "inertia" is defined as:
1. An object in motion tends to stay in motion unless stopped or changed
by a force;
2. An object at rest tends to stay at rest unless changed (moved) by a
force.

In this context it is not an object that has inertia, but a person's
attention, thinking, or movement. We tend to stay on one task (or no
task at all) unless stopped (or started) by a major outside force or
tremendous act of will. It applies both to getting started on a task or
focus as well as stopping once engaged in something.

Inertia applies to very small movements, as well as to broad areas.
Someone with inertia may get "stuck" halfway through a movement such as
pouring, causing them to spill. They also may repeat an action
indefinitely, as with self-stimulatory behaviours such as rocking,
tapping, or hand flapping. Inertia also applies to a person's focus of
attention. Something as broad as a major topic of interest, or as narrow
as fixation on the wheels of a toy car can be a result of inertia.

Symptoms of inertia include difficulties with:
- "getting going", starting a task, getting one's body in motion.
- changing activity and/or focus.
- adjusting movements to rapidly changing surroundings.
- performing a task without full understanding of what needs to be done
and why.
- stopping attention on desired focus (i.e. attention itself is "in
motion")
- starting and stopping movements.
- changing subject of focus.
- changing tasks.
- doing something despite knowing how and wanting to.

Inertia can be one of the most disabling characteristics for an
otherwise high functioning autistic person. Despite being intelligent
and motivated, inertia can make it difficult to impossible to get
anything done. It can even be the primary barrier to independent living.
On the other hand, inertia can have benefits. The ability to hyperfocus
allows one to work for extended periods of time - often work through the
night and ongoing for several days. Topic-oriented inertia can lead to a
great depth of understanding of a particular subject. When inertia is
focused in the desired direction, it can be nearly unstoppable. If the
disabling aspects can be accommodated or overcome, inertia can be a
great asset.

Inertia is an explanation for why it's difficult to get things done
rather than an excuse not to do them. Blaming yourself will only make it
even harder to do things. So even without scientific evidence to support
the existence of a distinct "inertia" difficulty, at least it may make
you feel better. Besides, acting on difficulties as if the trouble is
neurological often works better for people who fit the inertia profile
than strategies which are supposed to motivate. Seeing the difficulties
as disability related rather than a character flaw allows for a
different and gentler approach to your difficulties.

--------------------------------------------
OTHER FACTORS

Inertia appears to be a combination of attention shifting and motor
planning difficulties. It seems to be neurological in origin, rather
than a result of depression, defiance, laziness, or procrastination.
Although they are not the complete explanation, there are a number of
factors that may affect the degree of inertia.

- DECISION MAKING: Many autistics find it difficult to prioritize and
organize incoming information and internal desires in order to make
decisions. If you can't make up your mind, it is impossible to get
started on one thing.
- PERFECTIONISM: Perfectionism can definitely be a factor in inertia,
although it is more related to common lack of motivation. If a task
needs to be done perfectly then it can very easily become overwhelming.
- DEPRESSION: Although inertia may be exacerbated by depression, it also
occurs independent of mood. If apparent inertia comes on suddenly or
worsens, then the possibility of clinical depression or dysthymia should
be investigated.
- DISORGANIZATION: This can be a problem with prioritizing, as well as
with planning and sequencing. It is hard to figure out what to do, in
what order, or what is most important.
- OVERWHELM: Sometimes the size or complexity of a job is overwhelming,
making it impossible to sort out. When overwhelmed it is difficult to
impossible to even think about how to begin a task, let alone do it.
- ADD/ADHD: Like inertia, ADD causes difficulty controlling the focus of
attention. However, the tendency in ADD is for the attention to wander
while in inertia it tends to get "stuck". There is some crossover of
symptoms, and although they don't appear to be the same thing, ADD can
definitely make inertia worse.
- MOTIVATION: One of the defining characteristics of inertia is that it
occurs even when the individual is highly motivated by great threats or
rewards. The individual with inertia often wants to do other things, but
just can't seem to do them.

------------------------------------------------------------
SUGGESTIONS

There are no cures for the problems caused by inertia. The only
possibility is to work with and around it, rather than against it. None
of the following suggestions are guaranteed to work, and many are even
contradictory. Just pick one or more that seem to suit you and adapt
them to your own needs.

- SCHEDULES: Often when something is in a regular schedule, inertia
applies more to the schedule than to the individual task - the tasks
within a regular routine are more likely to get done. Be careful not to
over-focus on the act of scheduling rather than doing things.
- START OFF EASY: Choose a task which is not a major issue. Make it as
easy as possible to accomplish by taking account of any sensory issues
and breaking down the task into manageable pieces. Try not to make a big
deal about it or apply a lot of pressure.
- SHOCK: Some people may need to be shoved rather than prodded in order
to change focus. Alarms or timers can help for this purpose. Other
people, such as irate parents or partners, are good at "shock therapy".
It is probably not healthy to be shocked often (besides which, the shock
value would likely wear off), but for the really important things it may
be the only reliable method.
- SET A TIMER: Aside from the schedule and shock values of a timer or
alarm, it can help to know that one task does not go on forever. Timers
can help with transitions by giving your brain time to get used to the
idea of changing focus. Timers can also work for limiting unpleasant
tasks. If you know you only have to do something you don't want to do
for a specific amount of time, then it may be easier to get over the
initial resistance. Timers can also help prevent exhaustion from doing a
single task for too long.
- ACCOMPANIMENT: Sometimes it is impossible to get things done while
being 'watched' by another person. It may be best not to tell anyone
else so you don't have to be accountable to anyone. On the other hand,
some people find it easier to get things done if there is another person
around. The other person may need to be occupied, or it may be okay if
the other just sits there.
- REWARDS: Having rewards for the completion of certain tasks is helpful
for some people. Rewards may not work for long, but may help for getting
started into a routine. A good reward has to be not too difficult to
achieve, immediate (at least initially), and highly desired but not
irresistable. Rewards do not have to be par of an elaborate schedule or
earning scheme, they can be made up on the spot. Punishments usually
don't work and can be de-motivating. If you use rewards, don't back
down. Delay the reward until the decided task is completed. You can have
what you want - as soon as you're done.
- LISTEN TO YOURSELF: If something doesn't work or stops working,
change. Also try to listen to your body and your feelings when they tell
you that you need to be doing something like eating or sleeping.
Feelings of pain are a message that something is wrong and needs to be
changed.
- USE YOUR MOTIVATION: Pushing on inertial tendencies will usually just
cause them to push back. It is more important to do things that you
understand the reasons and have the motivation to do.
- DON'T NAG: Nagging (repeated, annoying, or unnecessary reminders) is
likely to cause resistance to any of the strategies you may try to
implement. An occasional reminder by someone else may help you stay on
task, but these need to be carefully suited to your own difficulties and
desires.
- MEDICAL TREATMENT: If you have any physical or mental illness which
causes lethargy, it needs to be treated before you can make much
progress. Take all prescribed medications and investigate the
possibility of any treatable illness.
- STOP TRYING: If you really can't get started, do something else. Try
doing something completely different, but not something that you are
likely to get "stuck in". Don't forget to try the task again later.
- EASE TRANSITIONS: Allow a short, specific amount of time or other
limitation (e.g. 3 more pages of reading) before changing tasks.
- USE TRANSITIONS: Catch yourself in transition times so you don't have
to stop doing one thing in order to do what you are trying to
accomplish. (e.g. Start a sink full of dishes when you get up to get a
drink.)
- BREAK IT DOWN: Try to break down the task into manageable pieces.



KemoreJ
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18 Oct 2011, 7:46 pm

I am only motivated by the things which interest me. :wink:

At the moment, nothing interests me more than the internet. Not healthy. So I'm on the net or I'm lying on bed listening to music. That's fine but it's passive. It's not healthy to be passive so much.

So I'm waiting for inspiration to strike me again.


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19 Oct 2011, 4:53 am

Thank you for putting a name and explanation to something that's always troubled me! Now I know what it is and have a driving desire to FIX IT or at the very least WORK AROUND IT.

AS: 1 Me: 1

I'm an inch closer to accepting this diagnosis.



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22 Oct 2011, 9:48 am

I have this problem so badly. I find a good solution is to give myself a timed schedule for things, otherwise I will spend all day in the same spot. Its a wonder I get anything done.


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22 Oct 2011, 10:15 am

I think there is a lot of HFA who really do get things done, Spielberg, Gates even plumbers and accountants.

Its just forumites tend to be useless whiners with nothing better to do :lol:

Even NT's have these disorganised, useless unemployed class of person

Being useless has its merits, ***we are the warning cells of the body*** here in NTville, and in a future world that could make us useful, by seeing our art, the artist invariably being the autist



alexi
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22 Oct 2011, 3:59 pm

Thanks for finding those sources surfman and animalcrackers. They were enlightening.

I think that one of the most useful things for me is to try to slot things into a schedule so that it becomes routine. At the moment I get a lot of the basics of life done in this way, but hadn't thought of it in a wider context for things like study, chores, etc. I'm going back to uni next year and remember that getting the work done (despite intensely wanting to) was one of my biggest challenges. I constantly fell well under or over expectations- Both of which obviously came with their own problems.



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22 Oct 2011, 4:45 pm

animalcrackers wrote:
I came across this article once http://archive.autistics.org/library/inertia.html. It's very detailed.


I recognise the description of difficulties transitioning between levels of active states. The bit about needing to start the day doing something 'high energy' - if I don't get moving early on it gets hard to do anything as the day goes on and end up with too much residual energy and annoyance at my lassitude.



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22 Oct 2011, 8:51 pm

The best way I can describe autistic inertia is that it's when some task is so overwhelming that even though you understand it needs to get done, you can't do it. An example would be a thread I made about a week ago where I asked for help overcoming myself to clean my apartment. I knew that if I didn't that the property management would charge me a bunch of money I couldn't afford, I had more than enough notice but I just couldn't do it. Someone in the thread mentioned autistic inertia and told me to break it down into smaller steps until I could manage. Which I did.


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23 Oct 2011, 1:13 am

Poke wrote:
ediself wrote:
The basis of laziness is in its definition: not wanting to do something. We want to and cannot. It's different.


"Laziness" is merely a disinclination to activity. The desires of the lazy person need not enter the picture.


I think the desire and the reasoning behind the lazy person most definitely needs to enter the picture here. A lazy person wants something done, but doesn't want to do it, where someone with autistic inertia or executive dysfunction wants it done, and wants to do it, but can't physically get started. Maybe you don't have to deal with it, and that's awesome, but I most definitely have had lazy times and issues with autistic inertia, so I can compare the two.

What about the part of autistic inertia that causes us to not know, or be able to stop a task we've started? Where does that fit into laziness? It's actually more of an issue with transition from one thing to another, laziness has nothing to do with it, but think of it how you'd like.