Executive Functioning and Autistic workers Infographic

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What is Executive Functioning?

Executive Functioning is a set of skills that enable you to do things like pay attention, remember information, and multitask. These skills are used in planning, organization, strategizing, paying attention to small details, and time management.

What is Executive Dysfunction?

Executive dysfunction is very common in autistic people. It means a lack of, or impairment of, executive functioning skills. Autistic people may appear more inflexible, have shorter attention spans, or forget things more than their non-autistic peers. They may require atypical solutions, more time, effort, or assistance to achieve their goals.

Impulse Control

The ability to think before acting or speaking. The ability to say to oneself “Is what I’m about to do or say appropriate?” 

An autistic person who struggles with impulse control may interrupt conversations or say things others find inappropriate. Please have patience and if it becomes a problem, talk to them directly about your concerns, making clear what you would like them to do instead.  

Working Memory

The ability to recall recently learned information and directions. The ability to follow multistep directions.  

An autistic employee might need tasks broken down into smaller parts. Try giving one assignment at a time or a list in writing. 

Emotional Control

The ability to manage one’s emotions, as well as the ability to identify one’s emotions. 

Autistic people can have a difficult time recovering and “moving on” after feeling intense emotions, particularly negative ones. It can lead to stress, outbursts, and/or meltdowns. Allow the person time and space to recover. Don’t try to force conversation. Ask if they want to be alone or prefer to have company. Make water and comfort items available.  


The ability to analyze one’s own self-presentations, emotions, and behaviors in social situations.

Autistics can have difficulty with knowing how  they are perceived by others. Be understanding  of differences that don’t harm others; offer direct advice for problems where safety is a concern.  


The ability to keep materials, projects, supplies and papers properly organized so that they are easily found. Also includes the ability to keep thoughts and time in order.

The autistic worker might benefit from additional resources for organization. Examples include detailed task lists, visual reminders, calendar and reminder apps.  


The ability to break down larger projects into smaller tasks and determine importance. Also includes time-management.

Autistic people are great at seeing details clearly, but can have a hard time seeing a big picture and understanding which details are most relevant to that picture. Visual aids such as charts, graphs, and tables may be helpful.

Resources used:

Academic research 

Online Articles on executive functioning/dysfunctioning: 

Online Articles by self-advocates  

Online articles with tips 

Educational videos on Executive Functioning  

Videos by self advocates: 

Videos on ways to manage