I have been asked to participate in a study on autistic burnout and I hope to share the overall results with you in the future. The study is being done by Auburn University at Montgomery and the research team is exploring the benefit of self-help groups for coping with Autistic Spectrum Disorder burnout. It consists of a questionnaire and an interview, asking about motivation, overall health, social skills and emotions. I look forward to hearing the results as I do participate in self-help groups. – Greg
by Peter Boger, M.A.
As Greg and I began to work together one of the things he would share with me that he struggled with in his relationships was the issue of ‘meltdowns’. As I began to learn more about what it is like to be on the Spectrum I developed an appreciation of how this is extremely common and something most if not all people experience.
So in the beginning I tended to hear that this was one of the problems Greg would have in his dealings with others, whether it was family or friends or co-workers. However, lately I have been having some different thoughts on the subject and I wanted to share these with you in this article.
I would be very interested in getting feedback on this and I would appreciate it if you could let Greg know on his website if you have any comments to share with me.
My new thinking on this subject has come from my observations on how challenging it is to be on the Spectrum in a world dominated by and basically controlled by ‘Neurotypical’ people. In a world where most cultures and societies determine what is ‘normal’, and most people accept this without much if any thought, people on the Spectrum have to deal with the difference between what you see, hear and experience and this cultural definition of ‘normal’.
You may have heard about a young lady named Greta Thunberg who is on the Spectrum and has sparked an international movement among young people to address the issue of global warming or climate change. Her story illustrates what I am trying to talk about in this article.
Greta, like most on the Spectrum, is an extremely intelligent and sensitive person who, as she was growing up and becoming more aware of the world around her, began to hear about global warming, and the dire warnings coming from the scientific community about the threat is posed for human life (and life in general) on our planet. It wasn’t long before she also began to realize that in spite of the fact that this information was widely known, most people and especially most people in government didn’t seem to be taking the issue seriously and Greta was really bothered by how totally crazy it seemed that something so important was basically being ignored as the scientists kept sending the warnings as well as telling the world that time was running out on the chance to take action before it was too late.
So Greta did something only someone on the Spectrum would do: she made a sign asking her government why they weren’t doing their job, and since she happened to live in the capital city, she went to the building where the government met and sat outside the door with her sign. Every day the members of her parliament passed by her and her sign and paid little if any attention to her. But Greta, being on the Spectrum, didn’t quit and go home as many of the adults who did stop to speak to her suggested. She just became more determined to continue with her efforts. Finally, the local news stations heard about this young girl who was sitting by the door of the parliament with her sign and began to spread the word about her protest.
What began as one young girl sitting on the sidewalk with her homemade sign, asking why all the ‘normal’ people running her government weren’t taking any action to save her and other young people from disaster has now grown to a worldwide movement. As she found herself now the center of attention and seeing the amount of awareness spreading around the world, she also saw that at home her government STILL wasn’t doing anything, and in fact in most countries, there was a lot of talk, but little if any effective steps taking place to prevent a fast approaching catastrophe for her generation.
Again, since she was on the Spectrum, she became more angry in her interviews with the media and in speeches she was being asked to make as a representative of the movement. In fact, you could say she was having ‘meltdowns’!
My point in looking at Greta Thunberg’s example is just this: as you go through your daily life as a person on the Spectrum, you see the same phenomena on a more basic and simple level, that is, that what is considered ‘normal’ by the neurotypical people around you often seems pretty crazy and just plain wrong much of the time. When I’m talking with Greg about this he always says ‘I’m just shaking my head’. But there are times when it really gets to you, and you might get overwhelmed to the point that you might have a ‘meltdown’.
So my point is to say that in these times, the meltdown is not something wrong with you, its just that sometimes living in a world where what everyone else considers ‘normal’ is so obviously crazy, you might not be able to just ‘shake your head’.
I truly believe that being on the Spectrum is a gift, because you can see what ‘normal’ people are blind to, but the price of that gift is having to deal with the extra burden and stress that you experience when you go out into that world every day. So when that stress builds up to a level where you can’t ‘keep it together’ and you have a ‘meltdown’, be kind to yourself and give yourself credit where credit is deserved, for doing as well as you do!
As I said above, I would be very interested in your feedback on this topic so please feel free to share your comments with Greg on this website.