I had intended to write a post on the autistic children who are expected to take part in intensive therapies when they are young, and then burnout (and thereby significantly regress) in later years. This debate is usually in regards to ABA therapy. But as I did my background research it became clear that Autism Burnout effects everyone touched by autism: children, parents, therapists and teachers. No one gets away from the exhausting impact of dealing with the condition.
There are plenty of reasons to think that early intervention in the life of an autistic child, has strong and positive effects. It is therefore entirely understandable that some parents will take this to the “nth degree” and immerse their child in sometimes 40 hour a week therapies – employing a full-time therapist to work with their child. It’s an expensive option, but what would you not pay for the long-term well-being of your child..?
I’d heard plenty of negative things about doing this to an autistic child, including of course, burnout – where they will make progress but are likely to shut down and regress when they get older. Even if we could have afforded it I would have not chosen intensive daily therapy for him. It turns out though that the children are not the only ones facing burnout in such a situation.
Therapists providing such intensive therapies, frequently face burnout. Not just because their work is hard and long, but because they often face the daily frustration of seeing little or no progress in the child. This is not to say they never make progress or what they are doing is futile (though that is a discussion for a future post).
It will not be surprising from having read my previous posts, that the parents face severe burnout as par for the course of having these children – regardless of what therapies are employed. This is compounded by how hard it is for these parents to ever take a break; to maintain friends and a support system, or find someone who can understand their high-needs child well enough to take over their care for even a few hours.
Once these children make it into the classroom, it’s the mainstream teacher’s turn to experience the burnout. They are insufficiently trained or resourced to deal with the “typical” autistic child.
Because of the nature of the problems caused by autism, the issues surrounding support for the families, and no miracle cure to make it all better, it seems that – at least for the now and the foreseeable future – Autism Burnout will continue to be widespread, and for many people, inevitable.