It’s Not Lazy: What is Demand Avoidance and Executive Functioning?
As a therapist, counselor, parent and neurodivergent person; demand avoidance is coming across my social media and news more and more. Demand avoidance or what I prefer: Persistent Drive for Autonomy is an avoidance of tasks for daily living and even avoidance of preferred tasks when asked to do so by another. This can affect people’s lives in various ways to include difficulty with household tasks, hygiene and even social isolation.
Typically, when a person completes a task or even makes progress on a task their brain will reward them with dopamine, one of the happy chemicals in our brains. Often, neuro divergent brains will have difficulty producing dopamine, which is one of the reasons ADHD is often treated with stimulant medications to increase dopamine in the brain.
In understanding some of the brain science behind demand avoidance we can learn to hack our own brains to better start and complete tasks. First, we can rethink how we feel about tasks of daily living. When we begin to associate these tasks as morally neutral, we can look at our space as serving ourselves as opposed to us serving our space taking some of the shame, guilt, uncomfortable feelings around completing these tasks. The purpose of these tasks is to allow our space to be functional and safe. This can drastically reduce the mental mountain in front of task initiation or starting these tasks.
Looking at a messy kitchen can be overwhelming; however, when we reduce the task to making the space functional, we can look at each part of the kitchen and work to make it functional. Is the sink clear of dishes and available for use, is there enough counter space for me to chop vegetables for dinner, is the space clear of food or other debris that may attract pests.
When we remove the mental mountain of task initiation and are able to reduce tasks to their function then we are able to address executive function. Often times it can be difficult to break down the steps of a task into manageable parts. Grouping steps can be helpful for example instead of “cleaning the house” we look at the individual tasks such as picking up all of the cups and dishware and putting them in the kitchen. Then we can move on to the next task.
Every person is different and will have their own unique way of chunking tasks or understanding the function of their home. This is an opportunity to think outside of the box. In my home; our dining room is our movement area complete with a swing to regulate our bodies and we keep things out in plain sight so they don’t get forgotten in a drawer. Do what works for you!
Helping adults on the spectrum find purpose and proving exposure are only part of the how CA Human Services helps clients launch into independent living. Read additional blogs about CA’s programs here: Residence Program and here: Successfully Independent
To learn more about CA’s Programs visit our website: https://www.commonwealthautism.org/adolescent-and-adult-programs/
CA is here if you need assistance with information or resources for supporting yourself or loved one with autism. Simply call our toll-free number 800-649-8481, send us an email, or search our resources for autism related services throughout Virginia.