Colin Nagy describes yet another way in which people grappling with life under the pandemic are discovering what it’s like to be autistic. First, it was the sensory hell of so-called “Zoom fatigue”. Now, the need for “cognitive transition”.
The places and spaces in between—the stroll between conference rooms, quick half-social catch up meeting with a colleague, or the quick coffee top-up—allow us a bit of breathing room and give our brains a moment to make connections they might not have made in the moment. It can be reliant on a co-worker, or just solo. But these times are crucial for solving problems.
For many actually-autistic people, most definitely myself included, the day-to-day normative world we have to navigate even without the pandemic is one in which people and processes frequently do not give us the time we need for transitions.
As I’ve described elsewhere, task switching for us almost routinely involves a greatest expenditure of energy than it does for neurotypicals, because, e.g., it isn’t a matter of Task One, maybe a bit of mental transition, and then Task Two. Instead, it’s Task One, winding down from Task One, a transitional period, spooling up for Task Two, and then Task Two.
What for Nagy and those he cites is a world in which filling our coffee or walking from one room to another is all they need to make these cognitive transitions for many autistic people is a world where we need far more time and space than that to make the switch.
- If you’re interested, here is where I originally got into the task switching thing.