Autistic burnout is a very real and debilitating part of the experience of having autism. You know that feeling when you have been doing too much and are overwhelmed? Well, imagine feeling like that 24/7. At some point, you will burnout. This may be for a few hours or a few days or even stretch into years for some. Many people with autism or autistic individuals state that they feel they are constantly in a hyper-vigilant state. For more information, please see my podcast on "Riding High" found HERE.
The experience of having to "fit into the box" of neuro-typical-ness can be exhausting and downright frustrating day after day. Hiding your need to stim to think properly, quieting your hands or your voice that impulsively makes noises just to soothe those around you - can wear you down. And if these aren't the case, simply trying to please others, doing things that don't really make sense to you (e.g., social norms) and being compliant to standards that seem frivolous or not useful... can be tiring. Being burned out from constant therapies, interventions, and specialized school programs is, frankly, understandable.
Some people can re-energize just by a few hours away from others hiding under the covers or in the dark or playing their favorite video games. However, others, need days to regroup doing these things. Pushing through and insisting on continued performance is not the way to go to help some
one modulate their energy levels. They will simply feel like failures and perpetuate their anxiety and depression that commonly come along with autism. Validating and working with the person to figure out and determine what refuels them, is ideal. For more information on energy accounting, see THIS ARTICLE. However, even approaching someone in full autistic burnout with another activity (even energy accounting) may be too much. If this is the case, con
sider backing off completely for a while. I know this may feel painful to do. as parents... who are already backing off so much... but allow your teen or adult child to return to you on their own when they. are ready for ideas, input, and challenges. They will. It may take time, but they will. It may take more time if they have been in intensive programs that they are still either recovering from or simply trying to integrate into their personal lives with increased autonomy.
ARTICLES ON AUTISTIC BURNOUT