I’ve experienced several moments of burnout in my life and career. Being something that I neurologically am not is exhausting. Wearing the mask of neurotypicality drains my batteries and melts my spoons. For a long time, for decades, I didn’t fully understand what was going on with me. I didn’t understand the root causes of my cycles of burnout. Finding the Actually Autistic community online woke me to the concept of autistic burnout. When I found the community writing excerpted below, I finally understood an important part of myself. Looking back on my life, I recognized those periods when coping mechanisms had stopped working and crumbled. I recognized my phases and changes as continuous fluid adaptation.
In my study, I found that when the autistic children were able to access their intense interests, this brought, on the whole, a range of inclusionary advantages. Research has also shown longer-term benefits too, such as developing expertise, positive career choices and opportunities for personal growth. This underscores how important it is that the education of autistic children is not driven by a sense of their deficits, but by an understanding of their interests and strengths. And that rather than dismissing their interests as ‘obsessive’, we ought to value their perseverance and concentration, qualities we usually admire. And while we do need a better understanding of the negative manifestations of very strong interests, we also need to think differently, and better about the educational inclusion of autistic children. So maybe it’s time to ditch the ‘strategies for inclusion’ – which, let’s face it, aren’t working – and allow teachers the flexibility they need to be able to tap into the strong interests of autistic children in school.
Autistic man Freestone Wilson suggested in the 1990s that autistic people are functioning as the “miners’ canaries” of civilisation.