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Spoon Theory - explained!

Updated: Apr 23

What is Spoon Theory?

Spoon Theory is a metaphor used in the Disability community that explains how Disabled people use their physical, mental, and emotional energy in ways that abled (non-Disabled) people may not consider.

The theory was developed by Christine Miserandino in her 2003 essay "The Spoon Theory." It was initially used by Miserandino to explain her lupus to her friend.

Today, it's used by people with various disabilities. Some Disabled people, whose energy levels are affected by their disabilities, refer to themselves as "spoonies."

A metaphor

A Disabled person wakes up with 10 "spoons." This is their measure of energy for the day. They have to be strategic in how they spend their energy, or spoons, before they run out and can no longer complete tasks!

A small task, like getting dressed, may only take 1 spoon. Eating a meal may take 1 spoon, but cooking it might take 2. A big task, like attending a full work day, could take 5 or more spoons.

Now, this person only has 2 spoons left! This is often not enough spoons for them to accomplish tasks they want or need to do, such as hobbies, chores, or social engagements. No matter how motivated the person feels, they are simply unable to make any more efforts.

What happens if someone runs out of spoons? They could experience headaches, exhaustion, anxiety, anger, and more. Sensory issues, executive dysfunction, and Autistic inertia can all become more bothersome. Some people even experience a "spoon deficit" where running out of spoons the day before gives causes them to have fewer spoons the next day. Continually running out of spoons over a long period of time usually results in Autistic burnout.

With this method of measurement, it's easier to see how a Disabled person would have to be careful to manage their limited energy resources.

How We Can Help

The Coaches at Autism Personal Coach can help clients figure out where their spoons are going, what tasks take the most spoons, and brainstorm ways to manage their spoons to reduce fatigue. If you or someone you know struggles with low or inconsistent energy levels, contact us to learn more and get started with a Coach!

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