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How many flavours do you want in your ice cream?

While some are preparing for the arrival of summer, others are saying goodbye to it. This is how the cycles between the two hemispheres work. While some have the boreal winter, others have the austral winter. And even though some prefer to eat ice-cream all year round, as is the case of me. There are others that it only makes sense to eat them in summer. We have to respect tastes. It is like the flavours of ice-cream, so different that we stare at them while we decide which one to choose. How many scoops do you want in your ice-cream? they asked me when I was a child. Can I choose 10 flavours!? thought I. One time I took the risk of saying three, and they granted my wish. I was amazed. Three coloured balls of ice-cream in a cone. There was no greater happiness on the face of a child. It was the middle of July. And it didn't take long to start feeling those colourful balls melting and dripping down my hand. I tried licking my hand. It wasn't a good chance as I was immediately scolded about my manners. I tried taking a bigger bite out of one of the ice cream balls and felt my brain freeze. To the point where I had to throw away the ice cream I had put in it. Not only did I lose a quarter of that scoop of ice cream, but I got another scolding about manners. And as all this was happening, more and more ice cream was running down my hand and had already dripped onto my shorts. A fact that earned me another scolding about manners. And so on. What seemed to be a unique and wonderful event with three scoops of ice cream turned out to be a torment. Responsibility had to be determined, I thought. Needless to say, the adults thought that the responsibility was entirely mine. How do I know that? You have more eyes than stomach! was the phrase I heard two or three times in a row. But I knew there had to be other explanations. Could it be the responsibility of the ice-cream? Or in other words, the quantity of balls ordered? I thought. I immediately dismissed that hypothesis. Because nothing could be to blame for something so wonderful and perfect, I thought. Well, it could be the weather conditions? I wondered. But if ice-cream was made to be eaten in summer, such a hypothesis wouldn't make sense, I thought. I even thought that it had to be my responsibility as the adults had told me. But that was hard for me to accept. Then I finally thought that the fact that they had not helped me. As well as the fact that they had been wasting my time with nonsense about good manners and so on. It was all that was responsible for wasting my time, diverting my attention from the main task of eating the ice cream and making me solemnly angry. Finally I had reached an excellent conclusion. Responsibility was sharpened! I concluded.

But why did I decide to write a post about this summer ice cream episode? many of you are asking. I thank you for your patience. What I really want to talk to you about is autism burnout. That's right. That is, what are the risk and protective factors for these episodes of burnout in autistic people?

Just like the summer ice-cream episode, many times people quickly start thinking that the autistic person is to blame. Or the set of characteristics present in the clinical picture of a person diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and with this or that comorbidity. Certainly, the fact that the autistic person may have a set of sensory hypersensitivities and be immersed in a context in which he feels unprotected. All this will make it easier for the person to find emotional and behavioural regulation. And this will end up in a situation often referred to as a meltdown. The accumulated set of situations that the autistic person experiences throughout his life transforms into what is called autistic burnout. Besides, we are not understanding the dynamics of the interaction between the behavioural characteristics of the person and the factors present in the environment.

As such, the fact that we still have a low awareness and information in society about autism, this leads to deepen the stigma towards this condition. Besides, we know that many people, including adults, do not know what is going on with many of the things that happen to them, even because they have not been diagnosed. And as such, they do not feel they have the capacity to make a proper understanding of what is happening to them and why others do certain things. As a result, they are unable to protect themselves adequately in many of these situations. And even in situations where the diagnosis of autism is known, either by the person him/herself or by those around him/her. Even so, there are many situations in which these episodes of emotional and behavioural deregulation occur. And in part it has to do with the way people present in the context react to what is happening.

In other words, stop saying that burnout in autism is the responsibility of autistic people or their characteristics. Besides not being totally true, it ends up causing more damage than anything else. And as such it is an attitude that does not favour the improvement of the situation. On the contrary, it worsens the feeling of lack of protection and incomprehension so often felt by autistic people. It increases the feeling of the so-called autistic burnout.

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