Inertia! (part 1)

First paper on autistic inertia!

EDIT: will break this down further and go into more details shortly!! It’s simply not possible to break this paper down to fit on four slides. I might do a longer one in future. It’s a really good paper, and I recommend any autistic person who has felt super lazy in the past to read this paper on autistic inertia.

Full paper:…/fpsyg.2021.631596/full

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Nothing about us without us
Who: Buckle and colleagues
Journal: Frontiers in Psychology
Published: 2021
Title: “No Way Out Except From External Intervention”: First-Hand Accounts of Autistic Inertia


“autistic inertia” is a widespread & debilitating difficulty acting on intention. It is discussed in autistic communities but has not been researched.

Inertia might be an umbrella term, where the inertia has different causes. It might be due to socio-emotional factors, executive dysfunction, movement differences, or something we are yet to identify

“I find [inertia] probably the single biggest problem I have”


“I can’t start my body”

They spoke to 32 autistic adults (19 female, 8 male, 4 non-binary, 1 unspecified) in six focus groups.

They found four common themes:
1. tendency to maintain one state
2. lack of voluntary control
3. difficulty finding step one
4. disconnect between intent and action

“even stopping not doing anything is stopping doing something.”


This is different to laziness because:
it also prevents you doing things you enjoy
it cannot always be overcome by strong motivators, including bodily needs
it is equally as hard to stop as it is to start
laziness is enjoyed, inertia is accompanied by frustration, annoyance, and physical discomfort


Supporting with inertia:

Distinguish between mechanisms.
Consider whether the current difficulty acting is underpinned by motivational/emotional, organisational or movement problems, because they have different responses to support.

Explanation & Examples:
Motivational: tasks that are stressful, aversive, or anxiety inducing
Organisational: tasks that are complex or involve transactions
Movement: can affect even very simple tasks and meeting basic needs

Use continuity.
When the autistic person wants to continue with a task, make it easy to continue

Explanation & Examples:
Avoid interruptions e.g. provide all information necessary to make a decision at the time the question is asked
Avoid unnecessary transitions and interruptions
Keep moving e.g. avoid sitting down between active tasks

Use prompts carefully
Prompting can be helpful, but if used incorrectly can exacerbate difficulties

Explanation & Examples:
Sensitively delivered without adding stress
During natural breaks in attention
To break away from disconnected passive states
Avoid nagging to attend to others’ priorities as such demands are stressful and exacerbate issues

Environmental scaffolding
Provide an environment that supports action

Explanation & Examples:
Do tasks in an environment specific to those activities e.g. working in a designated study or office
Engage in a compatible activity nearby
Keep a regular routine

Lower the threshold
Make it easier to start by lowering the initial hurdle

Explanation & Examples:
Self-talk or encouragement to only do one small step in the desired direction
Have someone else do the first step

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