Part 2 – Arbitrarily Set Standards of Executive Functioning
By Rom Feldmann© FdScMH, LTh(Hons), CertEd,
PgCert Special Psychopedagogy,
PgCert Autism & Asperger’s, QTS
– The Theory of Executive Dysfunction
‘Executive function is an umbrella term for functions such as planning, working memory, impulse control, inhibition, and shifting set, as well as for the initiation and monitoring of action.’ (Hill, 2004, 1)
Hill states that in order to guide actions, these functions need to disengage from the immediate environment, which seems to suggest that at least part of an Executive Dysfunctionality has to present as an impairment of an autistic’s ability to disengage from the object/subject of their immediate environment’s single focus and shifting their attention to possible prompts by external stimuli.
However, I would question the axiomatic assumption that an apparent non-responsiveness to external focus-shifting prompts must be seen as an ‘impairment’, since such an assumption would imply a standard, focus-shifting expectation to all incoming external stimuli, mandatory for all, as a pre-requisite of a social interaction expectation singularity, a universal norm.
Judging such a perceived non-responsiveness as some pathologically uncontrollable ‘aloofness’ is a dangerous, a priori inconsideration of an autistic’s right to wilfully accept or reject incoming stimuli, regardless of their animate or inanimate origins. Autistics, as anyone else, have the fundamental right of deciding without any obligation to justify their choice, to accept or reject anyone’s, verbal or otherwise, approach.
Given the fact that most “Intellectually Proficient Autistics©” have an upper-level thought process best to be characterised as an intense continuum, would render approaches as unsolicited intrusiveness, met with and honest and non-dissimulated disinterest or silent/verbal rejections. Justifiably, disrespectful insistence is oftentimes perceived as aggression, which could lead to provoked shut- or meltdowns. It is unfortunate that these provoked episodes with extremely distressful consequences are not considered or classified as physical and/or emotional abuse or in many cases, assault.
The other aspect of this theory (Frith et al, 2010, p15 footnote) is an analogy with neuropsychological patients displaying impaired executive functions caused by frontal lobes damage, suggested by similar ‘frontal test’ results produced by these subjects and individuals diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and high-functioning autism.
Again, validating such a theory ignores an autistic’s volitional selectivity, leaving us either presumably brain damaged, or without any control over some pathological compulsions.
The question however, the genuinely disturbing question is: who decided what the ‘standards’ of executive functionality are, and why divergence from these ‘standards’ must be viewed as “impairment” or “pathology”?
A possible answer is as disturbing as the question: the decision was most probably taken by neurotypical gatekeepers, interested (consciously or not) in establishing, further maintaining easily controllable, rigidly normative societal structures, leaving most population subject to a mass Stockholm Syndrome, using arbitrarily imposed societal ‘norms’ as means of compliance control, rewarded with nothing else than randomly refrained law enforcement harassment, disguised as ‘protection under the rule of law’.
Pathologising on grounds of superficial behavioural observations and biased evaluation premises, “Intellectually Proficient Autism & Asperger’s©” (IPAA©) individuals, is nothing more than attempts to control the innate proneness to logical judgement and justice, oftentimes displayed by IPAAs deeply involved and attached to protecting the vulnerable, fact also clearly backed by Tony Atwood (Wylie et al, 2016, pg. 12)…
Pathologising our dedication to equality is a sad and dangerous attempt to devaluate justice into a law enforced pragmatic utilitarianism, reminiscent of malthusianism…
(to be continued…)
-Frith, U. (Ed.), Asperger, H., Wing, L., Gillberg, C., Tantam, D., Dewey, M., Happé, F. G. E., (2010). Autism and Asperger Syndrome. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
-Hill, E. L. (rev. 2004). Evaluating the theory of executive dysfunction in autism. http://research.gold.ac.uk/2560/1/hill_devrev04_GRO.pdf accessed 10.01.2018
-Hill, E. L. (2004). Executive dysfunction in autism. TRENDS in Cognitive Sciences Vol.8 No.1, January 2004, 26 http://www.ucd.ie/artspgs/langimp/autismexecdysf.pdf accessed 10.01.2018
-Wylie, P., Lawson, W. B., Beardon, L., (2016). The Nine Degrees of Autism, A Developmental Model for the Alignment and Reconciliation of Hidden Neurological Conditions. Hove and New York: Routledge