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The Brain Dump Blog & Newsletter Invisible Disabilities and the Harm of Functioning Labels and their Contribution to ND Burnout

Invisible Disabilities and the Harm of Functioning Labels and their Contribution to ND Burnout


Invisible Disabilities and the harm of functioning labels and their contribution to ND Burnout

A reflection as part of unseen disabilities week, October 16-22, 2022

Written by Carole Jean Whittington

A function label perpetuated in the formal assessment process and in any form referring to an autistic is one of the biggest contributors to ND Burnout and the Chronic Cycle Burnout Loop.

When your needs are dismissed, overlooked and not even considered as possible because someone interprets because you make eye contact, you can hold a conversation with another person, you appear normal or "just like me" or "you don't look autistic'' that you don't have support needs or shouldn’t need them in comparison to someone labeled as having higher support needs.  This fallacy greatly contributes to ND Burnout. 

What is NeuroDistinct Burnout?

An autistic/ADHD/ND burnout is when our needs consistently go unmet for long periods of time without sufficient recovery periods from stressors like sensory overwhelm, masking and/or camouflaging, and a lack of needed support. The result can be a temporary loss of skills and abilities that take time to recover. The loss of these skills can be permanent if the restoration is not sufficient or if a burnout is a Chronic Cycle Burnout.

Burnout is the result of consistent unmet needs over a long period of time.

A Chronic Cycle Burnout is when a person circles through the five levels of ND Burnout but never fully enters Burnout Restoration.  This cycle can continue for decades and often does unknowingly to many who are late identified.

What is unseen are the following needs…


-Emotional safety to feel safe from emotional danger

-Belonging/Community/Acceptance/Inclusion - to feel like I fit in and am accepted/wanted.

-Autonomy/Agency/Independence/Control - to feel like I am in control, like I am free to make my  

 own choices.

-Purpose/Meaning - to feel like my life has purpose and meaning

At Work:

-Meeting agenda at least 24 hours in advance to give me time to process and plan for the  


-Closed captions for online events and to have a live transcription available for in person events  

 so that auditory processing is easier

-Time to meet with key contributors before or after a meeting to ask questions and allow for 

 processing time.

-Quiet work spaces to allow for focus and flow state work time

At Home:

-Help with high executive function tasks such as laundry, meal planning and meal prep.

-Private space that is conducive to relaxing and recharging

-Household cleaning support for the bathroom, floors and surfaces

-Daily kitchen support for dishes and counter surfaces

These needs are not discussed or considered. This leads to those who are either formally or self identified using the deficit based medical model of the current DSM believing they should be able to do xyz without help or that the needs they may experience are not valid because they shouldn't be struggling as a "Level 1" autistic, so they stay silent, suffer, don't ask for support or help in that area.  Many violate their internal self daily and don't set boundaries around the needs they have in order to get them met consistently because they don't feel they have a right to set those boundaries based on being a level 1 etc. 

This is one of the greatest human rights violations-

functioning labels for Autistics. 


Carole Jean Whittington is a late identified Autistic ADHD Dyslexic adult who discovered at 39 years and 10 months why life had been so hard and confusing.  Today, she is entering year 4 of living ND Burnout, Shutdown and Meltdown FREE after circling The Chronic Cycle Burnout Loop for 40 years!  


Founder of Mind Your Autistic Brain and host of the Mind Your Autistic Brain Talk Show, Carole Jean helps thousands of late identified adults every week in over 79 countries begin their Burnout Restoration Journey.  Join her in this first step to YOUR Best Thriving Life today.




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I know what it’s like to feel alone and chronically exhausted on this journey.

No one seems to ‘get it’. Friends and family think you just need to push through or "self-care" more.  Internally, so many people in late identified life (me included) feel broken, ashamed or like they are failing or have never reached their full potential, when all along they've had a brain and sensory system that is different from the masses.  It can take a lot of strength to keep going.

(It was years before I realized I had been on The Chronic Cycle Burnout Loop)

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