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  • Writer's pictureDanielle Aubin, LCSW

What autistic skill regression can look like



Note: This is info is only from my personal and clinical experience.


When I first heard of skill regression being related to autistic burnout, I thought I had never gone through it. I seemed to always be maturing and progressing, have I ever really lost any skills? What I didn’t realize is that skill regression can be temporary and in very specific areas, not necessarily global.


Being the highly sensitive autistic that I am, any major life change can throw me into some level of burnout. It happened recently when I broke my collarbone and my life had to drastically change overnight.


Prior to breaking my collarbone, I was the chef of the home. I wasn’t the most elaborate chef in the world but I was adventurous, and I would get inspired to cook new things. Afterward, I was not the same. Even after physically healing, I was unable to imagine how to cook anything beyond simple pasta and bean dishes. Going to the store was a challenge because the very idea of looking up a recipe or imagining more than a couple of ingredients cooked together seemed exhausting.


So, what happened?


My theory is that the abrupt change of breaking a bone caused my sensitive autistic system to become overloaded and some parts of it shut down. What’s funny (well, not funny but confusing) is that many parts of my system did not shut down. I was still 100% able to do other complex tasks. For whatever reason, cooking was the most affected.


I am highlighting this story because I hope it’s helpful to know what skill regression can look like because it was hard for me to conceptualize before. I’ve gone through similar processes of losing the skills related to personal care, employment, socialization… The skill may come back, although usually a little different and it doesn’t come back all at once.


Skill regression can happen in different ways too like after discovering you are autistic or begin the unmasking process. The unmasking process can expose many skills that cause us to deny parts of ourselves in order to complete them. In that case, unmasking can cause us to lose skills but ultimately, we are gaining our authentic selves.

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