Meet My Brain - A Field Guide to Autism

Efficiency

June 28, 2022 The Autistic Woman Season 4
Meet My Brain - A Field Guide to Autism
Efficiency
Show Notes Transcript

Are autistic brains built to be efficient? Intense focus and conservation of energy may be key to the autistic brain’s efficiency. Listen and decide.

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Efficiency


Efficiency minimizes effort, conserves energy, saves time, reduces expense and prevents waste. We’re told to make efficient use of our time and resources. What does that look like for an autistic person?


Welcome to Meet My Brain - A Field Guide to Autism, I’m your host, the Autistic Woman.


This episode, efficiency, is based on my experience and my opinion from that experience. 


Autistics have many positive traits. We have some that are different from non-autistics. We have those that provide us with exceptional abilities. One of my autistic traits works hand in hand with creativity to make my life and and at times the lives of others easier — efficiency.


It’s said that brains are designed for efficiency although that theory is yet to be proven. Assuming it’s true, I’ve not known another person whose brain is continually scanning the environment for ways to increase efficiency. 


I don’t know if I can do a task without considering whether it is efficient. It’s not an obsession, it’s a drive. So maybe most brains, autistic or not, do this yet I don’t think it’s on a conscious level as it often is with mine.



My brain might be driven to be efficient for the same reasons as non-autistic brains. I’m aware that as an autistic person my energy is limited. Maybe I have as much as a non-autistic and it’s just that it expresses itself differently. Autistic brains use energy to think and we do a lot of that.


I’ve heard other autistics talk about their difficulty prioritizing housework over projects they find more interesting. I might say cleaning house for example is boring. What I really mean is that it’s a more efficient use of my brain to focus on higher priorities and opportunities.


Could disinterest in the mundane be due to intolerance of inefficiency? Most autistics will tell you it’s not due to laziness.


I have to be highly efficient in order to make the maximum use of the energy I have. An autistic’s physical energy levels typically are different from non-autistics. 


Autistics might tend to tire easily but that is due, in part to the fact that we are processing so much when we are busy. Because of our ability to focus our energy often we can do in 6 hours what might take another employee 8 hours. 


I once handled 160 cases in one day as a judge and I credit an efficient brain.


I experience this trait, my brain’s drive for efficiency, every day in so many ways. I hear myself complain when something takes more time or energy than it has to. 


I set up my kitchen to be efficient. If I use a particular tool or utensil I put it where it’s the easiest to access. I don’t want to have to search the house or always go to the kitchen drawer for scissors so I keep a pair in several places. 


I keep tools etc where I use them. For example, if I had to measure out a 1/2 cup of sugar every week, I would put the half-cup measuring cup in the sugar container. I have two sets of measuring cups, once for such purpose. Why go get the measuring cup every week when I know in advance I’ll need it.


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Making plans is efficient and autistics love to have plans. In fact, some of us are frustrated when plans are changed. I had a friend who would suggest we do a particular things, let’s say go to a movie, and then when the day came to do it about an hour before call me and say we’re going to the lake. The lake? That’s not even close to what we planned. 


I eventually learned that this would happen with her virtually every time. I began to say no to invitations from her because things rarely went according to plan.


I struggled with many home projects that turned out poorly because I didn’t know there was a tool to make it easier and more accurate. Electric screwdrivers, a miter box, an attachment to a drill that digs holes in the ground and so many more. After a few of these discoveries I’ve learned that with almost any project “there’s a tool for that!” 


Many autistics like technology and in most ways it has made our lives more efficient. It still has its flaws of course. The frustration of typing a password at nearly every website has been replaced with the fingerprint. 


When I got a phone with facial recognition I thought there was something wrong with it because it unlocked the phone in less than a second. I am amazed at its efficiency.


Even though our brains are built to be efficient I’m not suggesting they always are. If going to the dentist regularly, picking up prescriptions on time and getting the oil changed all have to do with efficiency then I’m lacking.


Having you ever heard of a state of flow or being in the flow? Flow is a state of mind that happens when a person is totally immersed in, ie focused on, an activity. Some studies suggest that the brain is at its most efficient when it’s in a state of flow.


Therefore it’s confusing that autistics are criticized for our intense ability to focus. Or as it’s often mislabeled “over-focus”


Which is it and who decides?


There are articles and books saying we should try to be in a flow state, that state of high brain efficiency, as much as we can. We’re told it’s a key to happiness and satisfaction.

I don’t disagree. If most of the inefficiencies were removed from my life I’d definitely be happy about it. 


Pattern recognition is another efficiency. Many autistics excel at recognizing patterns which can help us predict what’s coming next.


Pattern recognition helps me be a better and more efficient lawyer. In order to give legal advice lawyers have to predict future possibilities. We have to anticipate the consequences of our client’s actions and decisions. We have to figure out what “could” go wrong. We do thIs by learning the patterns of human behavior in a given situation and applying them to our client’s case.


In another episode, I talked about a test I took in grade school that showed that my ability to recognize patterns is above average. I credit that to autism.


I’m not a neuroscientist. I can’t tell you which neurons are firing or which part of the brain is active in certain situations. I can tell you what I’ve observed about myself and the conclusions I’ve reached based on living and experiencing one autistic brain. 


My brain is continuously searching for ways to make my life more efficient. It funnels energy to what’s important to me which makes less available for things that can wait, to reduce the energy I use for unimportant things to free me to use my brain for those that are important and interesting. For example, I’d love it for someone to invent a bed that makes itself.


I’m on Twitter @anautisticwoman or you can email me at info@theatusiticwoman.com. You might also enjoy these other autistic creators’ shows on YouTube; Woodshed Theory, Autistimatic and Neurodivergent Rebel some of my favorites. I love hearing from you, in fact, it’s one of the best parts of my day. Don’t hesitate to message me or send me an email. 


This has been Meet My Brain - A Field Guide to Autism, I’m the Autistic Woman. Slava Ukraine.