Katie Santoro, 26, was diagnosed with autism at 24. If you’re neurotypical and wondering what “autistic burnout” feels like, here’s what Katie explains.

I can have burnout on a monthly basis. Those small burnouts may take a few days or a week to recover from.

I would describe burnout like a battery that starts on fully charged, but each activity takes it down 10%. So if I need to go to work on Monday, I can go from 100-90%.

If I need to do a board meeting after work since I do serve on three nonprofit boards that serve the autism spectrum community, I go from 90-80%.

If I need to do laundry or walk the dog after my board meeting, I go from 80-70%.

Sometimes I go work out after work and then I am at 60%, and it’s not even dinner time yet.

If I need to shower after working out, then I am at 50%. Then I may attend a social outing which could take 30% since socializing is the most difficult thing on the autism spectrum, especially if it’s in a place like a noisy bar or restaurant, at least for me.

By the end of the day, I could be at 20% or less, and starting work the next day generally doesn’t recharge me.

I need a lot of alone time, paid time off or downtime to recharge my battery which would help in preventing burnout.

I think my worst burnout was my senior year of college. I struggled with my mental health and I just felt a ton of anxiety about how I would live independently and work a job like all other young adults my age.

I failed my last two classes one month before graduation — and I used to be a straight A student — so I think going from being an overachiever and getting straight A’s to failing my last two classes senior year goes to show how giving 200% effort made me crash and burn out at the end of college.

I did go back and take those classes online during COVID and graduated college.

Katie Santoro is a junior board member for Unicorn Children’s Foundation, which is dedicated to creating cradle to career pathways for children and young adults with developmental differences. Katie is also involved with the Center for Autism and Related Disorders. She enjoys dog sitting and hopes to visit all seven continents by age 30. @autistic.thegreeklife



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