For the past several months, Spectrum Fusion has hosted an executive function training and support class after work hours at the Spectrum Fusion building. With the help of several students from the University of Texas Medical Branch, or UTMB, several members of Spectrum Fusion have been showing up on Mondays and Tuesdays every week to learn about executive functioning, what it is, how people can struggle with it, and how they can learn to better control their executive function abilities.
Executive function is a set of mental skills that includes, among other things, short and long-term planning, working memory, self-control and emotional regulation, and flexible thinking. People on the autism spectrum often struggle with executive function skills, and the problems are often made even worse when somebody with ASD also struggles with a comorbidity such as ADHD. Many people on the autism spectrum have expressed difficulty with planning and scheduling, keeping themselves on regular patterns, reining in their emotions, and keeping track of things they have to do.
The executive function classes here at Spectrum Fusion began back in April and is hosted by UTMB students Julia, Kassidy, Denicia, and Breighana. These classes often incorporate things that one might not expect into them, with many of the lessons involving games and fun activities that help train the brain to be better at certain skills involved in executive functioning. For example, the participants were asked at one point to play Jenga, which helps with working memory. Another time they were asked to play charades which is claimed to help with focus and attention.
There are about eight members of Spectrum Fusion who attend these classes regularly every week, and a couple of others who have attended more infrequently. Our members have expressed that the students are a delight to work with, and they often look forward to attending the classes each week, claiming that the lessons that they’ve learned at the classes have helped them in a number of ways.
Several of our members, for example, have expressed that they often have trouble with scheduling and making sure they have enough time for everything they need to do in a day. Spectrum Fusion Studios members Phil and Rhys, for example, both expressed frustrations with their ability to schedule things properly. Phil claimed that he had trouble with making enough time for both work and for his personal interests, and that he struggled with work-life balance. Rhys, meanwhile, stated that he often had trouble ensuring that he went to bed on time. Both expressed that they enjoyed working with the students, and that they had learned a great deal about themselves from the lessons. Rhys said that the lessons into executive functioning had helped him better understand a lot of the things he knew he was struggling with, but could never fully grasp or put into words before. Phil, meanwhile, said that he was feeling more self aware about himself, and that he was having an easier time ever since the students’ “emotional colors” lesson.
Other members have expressed similar sentiments. John Karl Barth, for example, expressed that he had always struggled with working and short-term memory, stating that he would often be told to do something, and then would “forget almost immediately.” He further went on to say that the lessons the students had imparted had helped him to better make routines and habits where he could set reminders on his phone calendar, better helping him to keep organized and not miss any projects or deadlines he’s involved in.
Even students who don’t claim to be struggling too much with executive function enjoy the students’ lessons. Darren, for example, claims that he doesn’t think he struggles too much with executive function difficulties, but that he likes keeping up with the lessons, learning about Executive Functioning, and finds the lessons valuable. He also claimed that he likes the personalities of the students, finding them friendly and approachable and quick to listen when they’re feeling down or struggling with something. This is a sentiment shared by many, as both John Karl and Rhys also said that they enjoyed spending time with the students and found them delightful to be around.
The executive functioning classes have been going on for a couple of months now, and are set to continue for some time yet. We at Spectrum Fusion are exceedingly thankful to Julia, Kassidy, Denicia, and Breighana for their continued time and effort as they help the members of Spectrum Fusion to build themselves up into their best, most capable and independent selves. We can’t wait to see how our members will continue to grow from these lessons!