Inability to Follow Instructions in Adults with Autism

Inability to Follow Instructions in Adults with Autism

Understanding the Inability to Follow Instructions

Many people on the autism spectrum, or even those with ADHD and other learning disabilities, may find it difficult to follow instructions, be it subconsciously or consciously. 

This problem occurs in both children and adults. It can, understandably, get in the way of learning and can even hinder some day-to-day tasks. Many autistic adults struggle in college and university and can face obstacles in the workplace due to their inability to follow instructions. 

Luckily, this can be worked on and overcome with varying rates of success. One way of going about fixing this inability is via ABA therapy. 

In the following lines, we’ll dedicate some time to ABA therapy, but you can learn more about that through Nexus. 

Nexus, which offers ABA therapy in Arlington Heights, IL can assist you in getting more informed about the services available should you have further questions. And, without any further ado, let’s get into discussing the matter at hand. 

Why Many Autistic Adults Struggle with Following Instructions

Now, many adults with autism struggle with instructions, but why? Well, there are several reasons for that, but they differ in many ways from the reasons behind the inability to follow instructions observed in children diagnosed with autism.

Many autistic adults may be overcome with anxiety in situations where following instructions is required. This subconscious feeling of fear may influence the conscious decision to follow instructions. Another common reason is frustration, which ties into being given unclear instructions. 

While neurotypical people might be able to decipher what the person giving the instructions is trying to say, even if the instructions are somewhat poor, people with autism and other similar learning disabilities may end up frustrated or confused. Similarly, being given more than one instruction at the same time can also present a problem. 

All in all, it’s not that people with autism can’t follow instructions altogether. More accurately, many face struggles with following instructions of varying inadequacy, which neurotypical people can largely maneuver around. 

How to Overcome This 

There are different ways of overcoming difficulties regarding following instructions. Often, the problem can be a bit harder to deal with when it comes to adults.

That is because you can’t really use the same tactics that you would use when trying to teach children the same things, mostly since adults, whether autistic or not, can comprehend instructions better if they’re given concisely and clearly, of course. 

However, going about following all types of instructions, despite them being unclear or insufficient, is still a problem that needs to be worked on. That’s why working on them, usually through therapy, is necessary. On this note, services such as ABA therapy are modified to suit adults as well and aim to help adults with autism in overcoming behaviors and increasing valuable skills.

How to Be of Assistance to Your Friends and Family with Autism

Overcoming any issue relating to behavior can be difficult, so having assistance from the people around you can be a real game-changer. With that in mind, this section will outline some things you can do to help your loved ones overcome issues relating to following instructions. 

Firstly, let’s note that positive reinforcement is beneficial for people of any age, autistic or not. That is because, if rewarded with positivity, behaviors and habits often tend to be repeated, resulting in positive behavior changes. 

Additionally, when correcting someone’s behavior, it’s better to simply tell them what to do instead of what not to do. That is a common mistake that many people make in general. While this difference may seem insignificant, telling someone what they shouldn’t do still carries a negative sentiment. 

So, that’s the first thing you can do. Secondly, being patient and aiding those around you with compliance is also important. 

Lastly, while they’ll need to come to terms with receiving inadequate instructions and work around this, being surrounded by those who understand their needs is still very beneficial, so keeping instructions concise and clear will mean a lot to those around you who are autistic. 

Factors That Can Influence Inability to Follow Instructions

Various things can influence an autistic person’s inability to follow certain instructions successfully. Sometimes these factors can be environmental, for example, a noisy or disruptive environment that can create distractions and stress or too many activities happening simultaneously.

Sensory issues that many autistic people often experience can also present as an obstacle in following instructions. They serve as an internalized reaction of stress to an uncomfortable environment. A sensory overload can often be caused by things such as loud noises or crowds, flickering or bright lights, temperature changes, long events, and so on. All of these unwanted sensations can make it hard to focus on following instructions. 

Likewise, as we mentioned briefly in the previous section, many problems with instructions that people with autism face stem from the instructions themselves lacking in some way. Sometimes, these instructions are unclear, vague, insufficient, or said in a hasty manner. Additionally, if the instructions are repeated, it’s often done insufficiently, using different wording and speaking too quickly.

ABA Therapy for Adults 

As we’ve previously mentioned, ABA therapy offers plenty of benefits for children and adults alike. It is essentially the science of behavior change, providing the ability to modify certain behaviors and increase useful and beneficial skills. 

ABA therapy, in general, is highly applicable not only to patients with autism but to many other situations and settings as well. The way ABA therapy works is through constant feedback and motivation, which are known to be driving forces for improvement. That way, individuals will be aware of exactly what is expected, which will make them aware of when they are doing things successfully.

Through data, everything is being monitored, and success is being followed, so the whole program is highly organized, which in turn drives it forward.

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