Autistic Inertia: An Overview


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Autistic Inertia: An Overview

6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Ali on January 2, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    I got a nice thrill out of the pronouns. Thank you for that.

    The post you’re referencing of mine is a couple of years old, and my thoughts haven’t drastically changed so much as refined a little. Inertia and choice paralysis (which isn’t a term I used in that entry but I think is self explanatory?) also happen for people who are perfectionists–and I’m that, too. The basis is entirely different, at least in me. Autistic inertia is most of what I listed in the post originally: needing external or internal prompting to begin or end a task (or part of a task), where task is a value-neutral word for any possible thing you could be doing. The perfectionist inertia is more about the choice paralysis: you can’t pick which option because one of them will be the wrong option or at least not optimal, so until you have all the data ever you’re stuck. I think my long example in the post about laptop purchasing is actually more related to perfectionism than to autism.

    There’s overlap between the two, but thinking about them as separate things has helped me sort out what I can conciously change (the perfectionist stuff) and what I can’t or find very difficult to change (like remembering to eat if I’m distracted). And it’s been almost like there’s intrtia about my inertia: when I can handle the perfectionist stuff, it makes it easier to brain together some of the physical inertia or get the song I’ve had stuck for over a week out of my head.

    • Apologies if I got the pronouns wrong! I’m not sure if you’re being ironic in thanking me or not . . . I can change them to she or zie or them or whatever if you prefer.

      I noticed most of the good references to inertia are older — it doesn’t seem to be discussed as much as it seems to merit and I’m not sure why that would be (beyond the inherent irony of people with inertia gathering up the energy to discuss our inertia . . .)

      I see what you’re saying about choice-paralysis being a particular subset of inertia and not necessarily the autistic sort of inertia. I gather a LOT of information before making a decision but there is a distinct qualitative difference between that sort of “delaying behavior” and the delaying behavior that keeps me from going in the kitchen and getting some food and eating it, despite being hungry.

      • And then the behavior I describe of “over researching” for a paper is a sort of cross-over between the two . . . there is some element of wanting to collect as much information as possible before making decisions about the paper but there is also the “gear-changing” inertia going on where I am so into the “flow” of research that it’s almost imposisble to stop it and do something else.

        So there are some behaviors that are a sort of hybrid between the perfectionist stuff and the spectrum stuff, I think.

      • Posted by Ali on January 4, 2013 at 10:35 pm

        No, genuine thanks! I think the autism blogosphere goes through trends about what we discuss, and that partly influences it. Inertia is also just hard because, well, inertia!

  2. Thanks for the link! You’re right, very very little is written about autistic inertia, even though it really is A Thing – personally, it can be more disabling than the social stuff. I think the research tends to concentrate on the things about autism that are a problem for or seem weird to neurotypical folk, like stimming and differences in social interaction. Things that affect us deeply but don’t affect those around us – like sensory/motor stuff and inertia – get a lot less press.

  3. I was not familiar with the term inertia in this context, but the descriptions sound familiar. I get stuck a lot – keep doing what I am doing (or not doing)… wasting a lot of time on a daily basis due to not shifting to next point on the agenda until very late.

    It also often happens that I have a line of a song or a bit of a movie scene or the way a certain word sounds, or a visual fantasy (can be a colour combination / pattern or an image or a social sequence or something else) or touch sensation stuck on “repeat” in my mind, like a loop. It is usually pleasant and calming, so I have never considered that a problem. But in the area of getting things done and being unable to leave “open ends” behind, it is problematic.

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