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Automatic Function -What It Really Is
Posted: Wednesday, September 9, 2015 10:32 PM
Joined: 7/24/2015
Posts: 3020

Automatic Function / Automatic Processing

Automatic Functioning is what results whenever you have practiced a task so often that it becomes automatic.

An example of this is when you were first learning to tie your shoes it was very difficult. You had to work very hard to coordinate all your fingers. You had to remember the sequence of patterns that the laces had to go in. And, for a while, this task was challenging for you and took some time and attention. However, after a year or so, you became able to tie your shoes with ease. Indeed, you could probably even tie them with your eyes shut. When a task, like tying your shoes, becomes so easy that you can tie them without conscious thought or attention, it becomes part of your automatic functioning.

Tasks that are stored in one's automatic functioning are often well preserved in dementia.

Because tasks that are part of our automatic functioning require little conscious thought or attention, they use very little of one's mental resources. Therefore, a person with dementia who has learned to make use of their automatic function, can often retain many important functions and tasks well into the end of stage 5 and often somewhat into stage 6.

Some Tasks that are stored in our Automatic Functions:

* Talking, especially greetings and partings. Any form of talking that is habitual or repeated often during their life.

* How you behave in certain situations. Again, the kinds of behaviors that are habitual or have been repeated often.

- When you come into a seminar are talk, you go take a seat facing the front of the room.

- When someone extends their hand to you, you shake it.

- When someone smiles, you smile back.

* Driving.

* Riding a bike / how to balance on a bike.

* Walking / sitting down / standing up / bending arms and legs / etc.

* Tying one's shoes.

* That cups are for drinking / how to eat.

Caregivers can make use of these Automatic Functions to preserve and increase one's independent, or semi-dependent's functioning.

Know that when people have dementia, as it progresses, they lose that they still have these behaviors within them. Often when caregivers ask people with dementia to do things, they give an instruction only. When you only give a verbal instruction, then the person cannot use their Automatic Function, but instead has to manually process it which likely is not going to work well. To access the Automatic Function, when a person with dementia can no longer do so on their own, make the movement yourself where they can see. When you ask them to sit down, bend like you are sitting down yourself.

For someone with dementia, when they can still tap into their Automatic Function, you can use this to retain many of your own functions. You just have to figure out how to allow it to become your default programming. For example, I no longer ever try to think about saying hello or goodbye to anyone because I know when these things are needed, they will just be there. Especially saying goodbye. You can feel the conversation wrapping down. You sense that something belongs in that space. If you just do not think about it, out comes the way you normally say goodbye to people. Although I have not slipped and said goodbye with an "I love you," like I normally would (yet). This is because I shut down that response in myself...and now have great trouble saying it when I need to (like with my kids).

Hope that helps.