Published on 12, July, 2020
My 12 year old daughter has been in autistic burnout for about a year. She has not been in school for 10 months and probably won't return.
Previously a high academic achiever, loved reading and art but now will only play video games as her special interest. Struggles to leave her room. Won't allow us to bathe her, wash hair, clean teeth. She doesn't see the point in getting up in the mornings.
We have done everything suggested to us, CBT, OT Ed Psych, SALT and there is no change.
We believe she is depressed but we don't know how to get her help as CAHMS won't get involved as they say it is due to her autism and she is not self-harming or suicidal.
We feel like we have nowhere else to turn.
Has anybody had a similar experience? What helped?
We are thinking about medication for depression but we don't know who can help us? Private Psychiatrist maybe?
The distinction between autistic burnout and depression is certainly not clear cut. If it is purely autistic burnout then antidepressants are very unlikely to help. The problem is that prolonged burnout…
Well let me give you some background so you know where I'm coming from. I'm autistic, I was homeschooled most of my childhood and I have been on antidepresentas for depresion (as an adult). The first thing…
JuniperFromGallifrey said:but unless she's coding her own, video games aren't a special interest.
I don't think that's fair. If a cinemaphile isn't making movies does that mean film isn't a special…
Chiming in a little here, is she interested in coding her own? Video games aren't always a special interest. They can be a practical and worthwhile solution to de-stressing. The content of a video game might be of interest, such as architecture or gardening, or problem-solving a thing in particular. As mentioned in the thread below, some games can aid healing, some can become addictive, some grow critical thinking skills and when my son was young, I noticed adventure games helped him with reading (dyslexic). It can be difficult for kids to understand why they're captivated and drawn to a thing. The important question is if it's inspiring or therapeutic.
As a mother, I have reinforced my son take a full day off once a week to do nothing and just be (we are not human doings but human beings). It doesn't always happen, but he will let me know if there's a day he's tapping out. This reinforces self-care and a part of self-care still involves cleanliness and self maintenance. Promoting time out for self-care is not so much self-indulgence (which isn't bad in moderation),but an important role in thriving. Self care also means minding food which is healthy for me (which might be toxic to someone else, not everyone can eat the same things), hydration, exercise, maybe a daily multi vitamin and connecting with nature in some small way. So, if she's tapped out of school, swimming or yoga - or whatever she likes, a few times per week. Allow her to choose, and change her mind until she finds a thing she enjoys (maybe you already do this).
However, the desire for these things, is always triggered by experiencing the reward. And that takes time, patience and practice.
At 14, my son was just emo. I let him be him. I could sense his struggles, but didn't quite know all of them, so I tried to help find ways to relieve pressures. However, I did expect small things and this was important. He wanted to play piano, so he would have to practice scales for just 10 minutes at least 3 days a week. I set the expectation at something which didn't feel overwhelming, and he would always end up playing for at least an hour. Making ones bed is pointless. But it's this odd simple discipline that can help us actually learn to just do a thing even though it's boring. (My son is much older and quite enjoys the aesthetic of a made bed) One doesn't really need to wash their hair but once a week. So ask what day she would prefer to do this. She might protest, but this is normal for a teenager, just kindly respond by reinforcing self care. You might even agree, but still gently reinforce matters that will someday matter, or ones of great consequence like brushing ones teeth.
We create an aesthetic for our world with even the smallest things. And over time, we learn to appreciate this. The taste of my toothpaste is more enjoyable than when I wake up. So perhaps see if you can sit together on the internet and find a clutch of different toothpaste's to try (if anything, you'll be stocked for a year). Rotting teeth cause a great deal of problems and expense. Better to spend a little bit of money turning this ritual into an exploration than the expense of a dental hazard.
Self-Care has to be the full process or it won't help her fully recover. It sounds like she went at 110% for a serious period of time and needs help learning to prioritise Health first, then Work. From what I'm reading, Anti-depressants don't sound necessary? And for many autistics they might do more harm than good, as they lower GABA, responsible for gut-brain health, which I've found in recent research to be something Autistics and ADHD'rs can already have too low of levels.
I don't think that's fair. If a cinemaphile isn't making movies does that mean film isn't a special interest? If a clasical music enthusiast isn't playing or composing clasical music does that make it not their special interest? I've never animated an anime but I love the stuff. Collect it, watch it often. Colecting and apreciating artistic works (which video games certainly are) can be a special interest as much as films or music.
That said everyone should learn to code (as important as reading these days) and 12 is certainly not too young to start coding your 1st game ... might not be a bad idea if she's interested in that.
I want to add, things which expand our perspective, widen our understanding of the world around, stretch the imagination and even strengthen neuro-circuitry like classical music, can aid well-being and thriving. I think it really depends a great deal on the content, how it's affecting my every day life, my values and character growth. I'm a big Tarkovsky fan, I'll never tire of his movies. I know a few cinemaphiles, a few non-autistic, one ADHD. These tend to inspire, branch into new discoveries. My grandparents had an Atari, my father plays WoW with 2 characters at the same time. I grew up with gamers, engineers and coders. Video games have come a long way, but there's still an element to many of them which parents should be mindful of.