Why do we enjoy completing tasks?
The answer is Dopamine!
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, in the brain, that motivates us to take action toward goals, desires, and needs, and gives a surge of reinforcing pleasure when achieving them.
Many people like to do tasks because performing a task to achieve a goal generates dopamine within the brain and then the completion of the task creates another rush of dopamine. It’s one of the bodies built in motivational mechanisms and effectively provides a happiness hit.
A common characteristic of Autism, ADHD, FASD, Learning Disabilities and other Neurodiversities is limited executive functioning. This means that the brain has a limited ability to relate and process information. Which, firstly, limits the ability of the brain to create dopamine to perform a task and then, secondly, the brain doesn’t give the dopamine rush when the task is completed. This can mean that a person doesn’t enjoy doing tasks and therefore gets no happiness hit.
So, is there anything that can be done to help create dopamine?
One common characteristic of Autism and ADHD is that the person is very much a visual learner and a visual thinker. Verbally telling such a person to do a task and the completion of that task don’t trigger dopamine because the brain can’t process the doing of the task as well as executing the mechanics of the task. Making a visual representation of the task and the process of creating, doing and completing the task can enable the executive functioning part of the brain to process the task and create the dopamine at the right time. This gives the happiness hit that makes the person feel good.
A person with ADHD may complete a task in class, at home or at work, alongside others, but feel none of the benefits. If the same person is given a simple, age appropriate, visual routine or task board, so that their brain can visualise that a task is being done, then dopamine can be created. Obviously not all people are the same so it’s important to understand each person as an individual.
Helping a person with neurodiverse thinking to understand how their own brain works and why we enjoy completing tasks can be the key to unlocking their potential.
One example of a visual task planner is the OurBoards Personal Planning Board