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Automatism, is the mechanism by which an individual commits an action without awareness. Most people do this on a regular basis and would understand this in terms of being on "auto pilot".

We generally reserve auto pilot for tasks which are dull, repetitive or for those tasks which we have done a million times and no longer need to think about the mechanics of it.

For example, once you know how to ride a bicycle quite well, you no longer need to think about how to push the pedals, maintain your balance, hold on to the bars, sit on the seat, turn, use the brakes etc....you can just hop on, ride and concentrate on the scenery around you...your main focus of attention only returns if something happens to cause a wobble or problem. However, there is part of your attention which is dealing with the mechanics of riding - this is where the first part of the "auto pilot" comes in.

Ok now how does this impact on us? Well for some people, due to the MS damage, memories, cognitions (thinking abilities) attention, concentration and awareness is altered, damaged or in some ways changed.....so where we once could have "split " attention - i.e., the main focus plus the auto pilot to conduct tasks, we no longer can....

The part of our functioning and attention that is MOST problematic is the auto pilot....therefore when you and I conduct tasks that we have done a million times we make silly and unexpected mistakes. This is because of all the cognitive functions,eg., attention and concentration abilities (of which the auto pilot is the biggest) are the first to become deficient.

Sooo, you are writing something - the auto part is supposed to be doing the check on word arrangement and letter arrangement, movement of the hand, holding of the pen, observing the paper - spacing and such, spelling and syntax and grammar....the conscious part of attention is focused on the "story line" and to a certain degree the spelling and word order. You are not aware of mistakes as you make them, and often until you re-scan or leave and come back later to check - you do not "see" any problem....because you do not EXPECT there to be a problem and that is the second part of the auto pilot.

you see all our lives we have learned to do things....learn well enough and eventually certain components of the task will become "automatic" - ya do not have to think to hard about washing a floor or eating.....and because of this fact, we learn to TRUST ourselves, our auto pilot our brains to function PROPERLY....in the past we did not need to check and recheck what we had done, we did not need to focus all of our attention on the task...BUT now that has changed - but our awareness hasn't...we KNOW we have problems, but give us a task and we will still try to do it as we always have...forgetting that not all the wheels are on the bus!

We are for the most part still under the assumption that the auto part is fully functional, we also forget that we forget, lose focus, see things differently etc....so on the one paw, we are trying to function as we always have with most things, and on the other paw we are aware of our deficits, but have not yet re-learned how to compensate? So if you think you are paying attention to something - you are actually not...make sense??

So what to do??? well for starters try to remember that you can no longer TRUST yourself, you can no longer automatically assume that the pedals will go around, just because you are on the bicycle! lol...

For important tasks...try to do them in 3 stages...

stage 1: complete the task...

stage 2: disengage the whole attention system - the control focus and the auto pilot and...go for a quick walk, make a phone call, have a drink or a bathroom break, stare off into the distance - whatever is needed to break the attention focus away from the task.... it can even be just for 20 or 30 seconds....

then stage 3: return to the task with the purpose of looking for mistakes and ASSUME that there ARE going to be mistakes - do NOT assume that there will be none...pretty much like checking someone ELSE's work!

However, if you start to assume there will be none because there hasn't been in the past, chances are you are going to be one of two things....

1) devastated all over again because you realize your inability

2) blind to mistakes because you are only "scanning" instead of really reading or looking.

Whether mistakes occur more frequently due to progressive MS or not, please be kind to yourself, remember even able bodied people also make mistakes!

The key to coping with growing concerns with ability is to acknowledge the problem and work toward ways of over coming it if possible

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