Autism and ADHD – questions for Artificial Intelligence

Russian translation

Autism (Part 1)Autism (Part 2)Autism and jobADHDMonotropismQuestions for AI

I asked Chat-GPT some questions. Perhaps its answers will be of interest to others, so I decided to publish them. The headings are my questions, the rest are the AI's answers.

The questions:

How do autistic and neurotypical brains differ on a physiological level?
Why do many autistic and ADHD people work at a slower pace?
What is the difference between Executive Dysfunction and Pathological Demand Avoidance?
Can Executive Dysfunction be a cause of Pathological Demand Avoidance?

How do autistic and neurotypical brains differ on a physiological level?

Autistic people may have observable structural and functional differences in different areas of the brain. This may relate to the size and shape of certain brain regions such as the amygdala, prefrontal cortex and cerebellar cortex.

Studies indicate differences in synaptic activity between autistic and neurotypical brains. The increased number of neurons and the connections between them (synapses) in neurodiverse people can lead to altered ways of processing information, which affects learning and memory, and manifests itself in special thinking, unique abilities to perceive details, deep immersion in subjects of interest, and intense focus.

Differences have been found in the levels and functions of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which play an important role in regulating mood, attention, and nervous system excitability.

Autistic children may experience accelerated growth of certain areas of the brain at an early age. These changes in brain structure can also affect the processing of social information, which can lead to difficulties in interpreting social cues and interacting with others.

The structural and functional differences listed above affect executive functions such as planning and organizing as well as analyzing and solving problems.

Why do many autistic and ADHD people work at a slower pace?

This may be for a number of reasons that are related to alternative neurological development. Here are a few factors:


  1. Peculiarities of information processing: Autists may have trouble understanding ambiguous technical tasks. Clarity and specificity in instructions and assignments are of particular importance. If the terms of reference seem unclear, they may need additional time to clarify points they are not sure they understand. This may include asking for more detailed explanations or specific examples to better understand the task. Providing clear, unambiguous and structured instructions can help to improve their performance and reduce the stress associated with task uncertainty and ambiguity.

  2. Difficulties with multitasking: Autists often perform better when they can focus on one task instead of switching between multiple tasks. This is due not only to a preference for focusing on a single task, but also to difficulties associated with shifting attention. Switching between tasks can cause significant stress for autistic individuals. This is because moving from one task to another requires temporal and cognitive adaptation, which can be particularly difficult. After switching to a new task, autists may need additional time to adjust and begin working on it to their full potential. This time of adaptation to the new task is important to maintain the quality and efficiency of their work. Understanding these characteristics is important in creating a work environment that supports the needs of autists. Allowing them to focus on one task at a time and minimizing the need to frequently switch between tasks can significantly increase their productivity and job satisfaction.

  3. Perfectionism, attention to detail and responsible attitude to work: Many autists have high levels of perfectionism and attention to detail, which can lead to longer task completion times as they strive to achieve a high level of quality work. This perfectionism is often accompanied by a deep sense of responsibility and a desire to do the best job possible. Autists can spend more time checking and improving their work to make sure everything is done correctly and to a high standard. This approach can result in products or deliverables that are of high quality and thorough, although they may take longer to complete. These characteristics can make autistic individuals valuable employees in many fields that require attention to detail and a deep understanding of the subject area. With the right support and understanding of their unique characteristics, autistic people can thrive and make significant contributions to the work environment.

  4. Sensory disturbances: For example, working in noisy environments, in overly bright lighting, or in the presence of other distractions can cause stress and reduce concentration. The ability to focus and remain productive under these conditions can require extra effort, which slows down the process.

  5. Shutdowns: These are conditions when an autistic person experiences fatigue due to excessive stress, emotional strain, or sensory stimulation. This may manifest as a temporary decrease in response to external stimuli or even disconnection from the outside world, loss of the ability to speak or move. After a shutdown, a person may need time to recover. This is the time they need to reduce stress levels and rejuvenate. Although overload can lead to temporary periods of downtime, at other times autists can demonstrate a high degree of concentration and productivity. During periods when they are comfortable and less stressed, autists can be ultra-productive, thus compensating for time spent on shutdowns and recovering from them. Understanding and respecting the need for recovery time from overwhelm is important in creating a supportive and effective work environment for autists. Taking these characteristics into account can help to optimize workflow and provide an environment for them to express their abilities and succeed in their work.

  1. Problems with concentration: People with ADHD may have difficulty maintaining concentration on a task, which can lead to more frequent interruptions and therefore longer completion times. This can manifest as mild distractions, difficulty focusing on a single task for extended periods of time, and problems organizing work. These difficulties can be due to both external stimuli and internal factors such as one's own thoughts or feelings. Distraction can be caused by ambient noise, visual stimuli, or even random thoughts. There may also be a tendency to switch between tasks without completing the task started, which can lead to an accumulation of unfinished work and increased stress. It is important for people with ADHD to create a structured and minimally distracting environment. Using to-do lists, clear work procedures and regular breaks can help improve concentration and task management.

  2. Impulsiveness: This may include spontaneous actions or decisions without sufficient prior thought or consideration of possible consequences. In the workplace, impulsivity can lead to interrupting ongoing tasks without completing them and moving on to other things, or making hasty and rash decisions. Constantly switching between tasks and not being able to focus on one can reduce overall work productivity, which increases the time it takes to reach the end result.
Medication to improve attention and concentration management and to manage impulsivity can be very effective in supporting people with ADHD.

It must be emphasized that slow work does not mean bad work. In many cases, just the opposite - slow work can be a sign of seriousness, thoroughness and deep focus on the task. In fact, many workers on the neurodiversity spectrum can exhibit high quality work due to their unique attention to detail, creativity, and ability to delve deeply into their subjects of interest. The task itself may take longer to complete, but this may be offset by less need for tweaks and fixes in the future.

What is the difference between Executive Dysfunction and Pathological Demand Avoidance?

These are two different but sometimes overlapping states that can affect a person's behavior and abilities.

Executive Dysfunction (ED) — are difficulties with managing cognitive processes such as planning, working memory, attention, problem solving, verbal reasoning, inhibition, mental flexibility and multitasking. These functions are necessary to carry out purposeful, organized, and regulated activity. Executive dysfunction is common in people with ADHD, autism, and other manifestations of neurodiversity.

Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) — is a behavioral profile often associated with neurodiversity. It is characterized by extreme resistance to everyday demands and requirements. People with PDA may appear social, but their behavior is often focused on avoiding demands and controlling the situation. This can manifest as task avoidance, manipulative behavior, social strategies such as giving reasons and excuses, and in some cases through social isolation.

The main difference between the two is this:

  • Executive Dysfunction is related to neurological and cognitive features that affect the ability to perform the tasks necessary to achieve goals, regardless of the desire to avoid stress or anxiety.
  • Pathological Demand Avoidance is associated with a behavioral strategy that seeks to avoid the stress and anxiety caused by certain demands and expectations.

Can Executive Dysfunction be a cause of Pathological Demand Avoidance?

Yes. Although the two states are not the same, they can interact.

Executive Dysfunction makes it difficult to plan and complete tasks, and when faced with these demands a person can experience high levels of stress and anxiety. People with ED may feel overwhelmed or depressed when faced with demands that seem difficult or impossible because of their cognitive difficulties.

This, in turn, can naturally lead to the development of complex avoidance strategies to evade these demands and reduce the associated discomfort. And this is a key component in PDA.

At the same time, it is worth noting that they can also be independent of each other, and one condition does not always lead to the other. PDA can have different causes and manifest in a wide range of contexts not necessarily related to ED.

Autism (Part 1)Autism (Part 2)Autism and jobADHDMonotropismQuestions for AI

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