My Autistic Child

Parenting Children on the Autism Spectrum

Energy Accounting is a simple, yet effective method for preventing burnout and feelings of being overwhelmed. Maja Toudal, an autistic psychologist and author, co-created this tool with clinical psychologist Dr Tony Attwood.

The Theory of Energy Accounting

Energy accounting is a bit like managing a budget. We have deposits and we have withdrawals. Ideally, we want to make sure that there is enough in our account to cover any withdrawals that we may make.

Another analogy that a younger child may understand is that of a battery. They will probably know that when they use a device regularly, the battery will drain and get low. To remedy this, we regularly need to charge the battery. But what does all this have to do with autism and meltdowns? Let’s consider how we can apply the theory of Energy Accounting to real-world settings.

Make Two Lists

Start with a sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle. This is your ”energy account.” On one side of the line, think about activities that drain your energy. These could be things like socialising, going to school, shopping, crowded places and homework. Now fill in the other side of the line with things that replenish your energy. These could include reading, video games, massage, going for walks or doing crafts.

Once you have the two lists, you need to assign each item a value in points. For example, socialising at a party might be a huge energy drain, so you might give it 100 points. Homework might be intimidating, but less stressful than socialising so you might only give it 30 points. Do the same for the ”battery charging” activities. Maybe an hour of video games would be worth 50 points or a long walk 70. The points system is unique to each individual.

Balancing the Energy Account

Now comes the hard work of putting it all into practice. Regularly use language with your child that refers to the energy account. Talk about ”recharging” or taking time out for yourself regularly. Write these activities on the chart and see how the energy accounting model impacts on everyday life. Be sure to put plenty of ”deposits” into the account, with plenty of fun and restorative activities to balance out the stressors of each day.

You could even print out a picture of a battery for younger children to fill in so that they become familiar with the activities that decrease and increase their energy reserves.

Many have found this innovative approach useful. I hope that you do too. For more information, I recommend this excellent video from Purple Ella.

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