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We don't regress

One thing I don't align with at all is when people try to say that a Neurodivergent child or adult "goes backwards" or "regresses". It is not accurate.

Personal share - I was reminded of this the other day when I was dropping off my child to his Ju Jitsu practice. We live a pre-dominantly neurodivergent-affirming life on purpose and as a result live pretty happy, healthy, evolving lives.

But on Monday, we were rushed (a big 'no-no' for us) getting there just on time, he was not dressed in his Gi as we were coming from another appointment and had to get changed there - sooo many changes when you break this in itself down, there were no parks so I was dysregulated myself trying to get him quickly out the door to run up the stairs to his practice as cars started back up behind me (a massive thing that negatively impacts my son)...

Now any of those things on their own, it would have been difficult, but my boy could have got through and do his practice. On this day he froze with his gi in his arms, looking at me panicked and said, "I am sorry Mum, I can't do it", as he ran back to get into the car, his little heart racing feeling like he had let me down. (A few years ago he would have experienced a complete meltdown right there in the middle of the road, so massive lifestyle tick that he could find his words). I of course know better that he absolutely had not, and that the challenges that were being presented to him exceeded the resources he had accessible in that moment.

Neurodivergent people, particular Autistics, tend to have high levels of neuroplasticity. In other words, autistic brains may find it very easy to create new connections between nerve cells. Neuroplasticity may contribute to some autistic people’s exceptional problem-solving abilities. However, the brain may sometimes redirect its resources away from certain skills as it develops new solutions to problems, taking those abilities temporarily “offline”.

It is important to note that neurodivergent burnout is not a conscious behaviour. A neurodivergent individual is not ignoring social norms or neglecting work/school simply because they are tired. They cannot “willpower” their way back to their old level of functioning. In fact, neurodivergent burnout is often caused by people working too hard to appear “neurotypical”.

An estimated 30% of autistic toddlers will experience what is considered as regression, but is actually burnout, likely because their brains are developing so rapidly and are thus under a lot of strain. A neurodivergent person’s abilities will often come back, but some skills may take longer to return than others. Some skills may not return to the level they were at before, depending on their nervous system health.

While recovering from neurodivergent burnout, it is important to be patient with yourself. It can be frustrating to lose access to skills, but remember that this is not your fault. During this time, it may help to schedule breaks throughout the day to relax. If you have a special interest or stim that calms you down, feel free to use those as much as you need to.

As always, be kind to yourself and your loved ones ♡

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