I wonder if the reason autism spectrum disorders, ADHD, and some other kinds of Bad Brains are so poorly understood is that it is *really hard* to explain executive dysfunction, particularly to people who don’t have issues with it.
Because in this culture, disability is either framed as inability or difficulty doing specific things (e.g., a person can’t hear or can’t climb stairs) or imposing a negative status effect (e.g., depression, chronic pain) - and the “status effect” disabilities often don’t get taken very seriously. But executive function is a very spread-out kind of faculty, and people with executive function issues generally are able to do some executive-function-related things under some circumstances.
A thing I have heard way too many times (not usually directed at me, but):
"X person doesn’t have ADHD, they’re just lazy!"
A lot of the reaction to ADHD and other executive dysfunction is moral judgment, as Dr. Russell Barkley describes. Despite his medical license and such, much of his focus in talking about ADHD is in terms of the social model of disability - he talks about accommodations and things that are difficult for people with ADHD to achieve because society is basically not set up for them.
I would say that in general, people don’t understand disability, though. Like even having physical disability or a more recognized mental illness such as depression is no guarantee that people will not be judgmental and ignorant. One person I know recently complained bitterly about having to pay taxes for netting under the Golden Gate Bridge to save suicidal jumpers because people who attempt suicide are “idiots” who “deserve to die.” This is someone who lives with severe anxiety, and she still doesn’t get it.
But yeah, the hostility toward executive dysfunction is a thing all its own.