Sunday, 2 June 2013

Delayed cognitive and verbal processing

What is delayed processing? It means a person processes things in their brain at a slower rate than Neurotypicals (NT). I need more time to think, process and then respond which unfortunately is not the way the majority of the world works. Musings of an Aspie has a fantastic blog post that explains delayed processing in more depth. I very much related to her blog post and it has helped me to understand myself better and not feel I am dumb because I think slower. I highly recommend her blog and her Facebook page.

I process things slower in my brain than Neurotypicals (NT). I tend to spend a lot of my time trying to process everything in my head that I miss out on actually doing things and tend not to get involved as much as I would like. It is not that I don't want to. I definitely want to get involved but at a pace that I can follow and keep up with. The world often feels way too fast for me. I am expected to think quickly, decide quickly, speak quickly, everything needs to be now, now, now! I can no longer keep doing that. It is too exhausting for me. I have never been particularly good at thinking quickly and speaking quickly in spontaneous situations beyond my control.
I will be invited to an event and will need time to think about if I want to go. I often don't end up going because I am too overwhelmed by the thought of going that I don't go. Especially if there are a lot of people there that I don't know. I don't like the idea of having to talk to people and end up looking dumb because I don't think or speak as fast as they do. 

I have been pushed into doing things that I don't necessarily want to do because I have delayed processing. I have been asked by a person if I would like to do a certain thing and usually appear blase on the topic but I am often not. Others mistake this as compliance when really it is not. I am processing. I need time to process what I am being asked/told. Once I have processed and really thought about it I am then able to give an answer or respond. Sometimes this is days, weeks and even months later. I am often told that I have trouble letting go of the past when I talk about something from the past. When really I have finally worked it all out in my head and think clearly on the subject and can finally talk about it as I need to. 

When I am overwhelmed or overstimulated by my environment and a person either wants to talk to me about something or asks me about something (and they want an answer then). I often can't think clearly to give an answer. I have been taken advantage of in that sort of situation because I was not able to think clearly about it as I needed to and given time to respond. I appear compliant to others when I am not. I have learnt to self-protect over time and just automatically say no or leave when I feel too overwhelmed to think clearly. It is far safer for me that way. 

Which leads me to a short example of delayed processing that only happened recently.

As you by now are well aware I suffered Autistic burnout a few months ago. So in this burnt out state my executive functioning is low, I often don't have enough spoons to cope with much, and I struggle with inertia, my mental processing is slower than it ever has been in overwhelming situations. 
A well intentioned, caring family member took it upon themselves to tell me that they thought I needed to do trauma therapy to help me get over all my past traumas so that I would recover from my burnout faster (their words, not mine). I was so overloaded and burnt out that I was not thinking clearly about it. I just told them, 'find out more about it.' This was a few weeks ago. Since then they have been pressuring me to change therapists, do trauma therapy and recover-memory therapy. They found out how and if I could change my mental health plan which I am using to see my current psychologist. Which I am able to, if I want, which I don't. All along I did not feel right about it but hadn't had time to really think properly about it and what I really thought about it. It was too overwhelming on top of everything else I am currently trying to process and deal with. So I put it at the back of my mind hoping they would move on and forget about it.

Unfortunately this is not the case, it was insisted that I organise myself and see my Dr to change my mental health plan. It all hit me this weekend upon chatting with one my lovely online friends and telling them what was going on. This was the first time that I, in fact had processed it enough to bring it to the forefront of my mind and think about it properly. Upon chatting to my friend about it I finally processed it and realised that I do not want to actually do this. It is too much for me right now. I do not want to change psychologists and start all over again in the midst of a trying to recover from a breakdown. I do not want bring up things from the past and have extra information to process and heal from. This family member reckons that my current psychologist is not helping me enough and wants me to see someone who will produce results.

I have decided that I am not going to do this. Not now. Perhaps in the future when I am in a better place and not so fragile. To do so will make it too hard to recover. It is too much information for my already overloaded brain.

I know that this family member was trying to help me, but it was misguided and subtle ableism. I do not see it as helpful at all. I see it as stressful and unnecessary. Please see my post on support.

That is just one example how I experience delayed processing. It happens all the time and I have only recently become more aware of just how much it affects my life. I struggle to assert myself in stressful situations as a result because I cannot think of the words to say in that moment. I find it difficult to maintain the flow of a normal conversation, especially when the conversation is moving quite quickly. My delayed processing can't keep up. Due to this I often have to withdraw from social situations more than I want to. I sometimes really do want to socialise but find it too stressful to try to maintain that level of normality. It often leaves me feeling worse off about myself rather than better because I end up feeling stupid because I appear dumb.

This is a wishlist written by the woman who writes the Musings of an Aspie blog for how she wants to be treated. 

"What do I need, you might be thinking? My wishlist:

  1. Treat me like a competent adult. 
  2. Be patient. I might need a little extra time to compose my answer or to process what you’ve said. 
  3. If I ask for clarification, try explaining in a different way. If I didn’t understand the way you explained the first time, an exact repetition probably won’t help. 
  4. Assume that if I don’t understand something, I’ll say so. 
  5. Don’t rely on my body language or other typical cues for feedback about whether I understand what you’re saying. Unless you’re also autistic or know me very well, you probably can’t read my body language any better than I can read yours. 
  6. Give me time to write down key information if I need to. 
  7. Don’t oversimplify your language or speak unusually slowly or loudly. 
  8. If you’re giving me verbal instructions, break them down into specific steps and explain one step at a time. 
  9. If I keep repeating a question or statement, I need a stronger acknowledgement that you’ve heard and understood me. 
  10. Treat me like a competent adult."
I couldn't agree more with that wishlist.
In what ways do you experience delayed processing?


  1. I think I have that! I never thought about it before, and I thought that delayed processing would equate with being slow, which I'm not, but that kinda sounds like me. And the inertia thing is fully me. Except I just call it procrastination

  2. I only realised that is what is going on for me too. It is not that I am slow or dumb. I just think and process slower. That isn't a bad thing. It means that the world is too fast for me. I need to live life at my pace in order to cope and be happy.
    Yep, inertia is kinda different to procrastination. I thought it was procrastination too but upon reading more about inertia I realised it is more than just putting off doing something, it is hard for me to actually start something. Arghh hard to explain. I read a really good article about inertia and now the website along with article has vanished. I am not happy about it :( It was the best article on inertia I had ever read too.


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