Information on Motivation

Autistic individuals tend to have difficulties with their executive functioning.  This can impact on motivation. These functions include:

  • Task initiation – the ability to start a task
  • Planning – being able to make a plan and work out what order to do things
  • Problem solving – the ability to find a solution to a problem
  • Working memory – short term memory such as forgetting someone’s order if serving them
  • Attention – ability to direct your focus on something specific, not being distracted by other stimuli
  • Verbal reasoning – especially when there are implied social meanings behind the instruction
  • Inhibition – filtering out inappropriate thoughts or interrupting someone
  • Cognitive flexibility – having to do things the same way each time
  • Monitoring – knowing where you are in a project or task

Stephanie Bethany Talks about Difficulties with the Executive Function of Task Initiation

Reasons executive functioning can make doing tasks difficult:

  • Anxiety
  • Not knowing where to start
  • Not having clear goals
  • Not knowing when to start
  • Busing doing other things
  • Not as important as other things
  • Seems too big and too difficult
  • Not knowing what to do if something goes wrong
  • Unable to adapt to change if it doesn’t work
  • Worried someone will make you do it a different way
  • Worried about failure and not being good enough


Things that can help to improve executive functioning include:

  • Getting someone else to initiate a task by telling you what to do
  • Setting an alarm to alert you to when to do something
  • Deadlines can help
  • Having someone tell you how you are doing or where you are in a project
  • Being able to do a project in the way you need to do it – without someone trying to get you to do it a different way
  • Writing things down so it’s there if you forget
  • Breaking down a task with someone else before starting it
  • Having written down plan to follow


Click on the links below to see some interesting articles on motivation and autism: