Understanding the Spoon Theory.

September 25, 2023
Jithiya Prakash

The Spoon Theory

How the Spoon theory helped me understand my energy levels as someone on the Autism Spectrum


We often over-extend ourselves while overriding our body’s signals and pushing our bodies beyond their limits, which leads to a “crash” (burnout), that takes a longer time to recover while our mood is on a rollercoaster.

We tend to feel upbeat, positive, and accomplished on our "good" days, followed by a collapsing depression, disappointment, and melancholy on our "recovery days."

Spoon theory is a pacing system, that can help us to prevent burnout by evenly distributing our energy. Every morning, most typical people wake up with infinite spoons. They can easily choose to do this or that without risking much other than time consumption. Sure, they get tired by the end of a full day, but generally, they have enough spoons to do all the regular activities.

But the neurodivergent people, only get 12 or 20 spoons a day. For each activity, even small things like getting dressed or making breakfast, take a spoon. Careful choices must be made about how the spoons are spent, otherwise , they will be gone before the day is through. A bad spoon-management choice might leave us without spoons for several days.

The Neurodivergent Spoon Drawer is often inconsistent. We may have energy spoons but little focus spoons or social spoons but limited sensory spoons. The inconsistency in our energy spoons can cause our actions to be misinterpreted. Such as, "If you have the energy to see your friends, you certainly have the energy to do your homework!" 

Being able to talk about the Neurodivergent spoon drawer can help us better communicate our experiences and needs. I will also use my awareness of my various spoons to motivate myself. For example, I may pair an activity that requires a high level of spoons (cleaning the bathroom)with something that recharges my energy (listening to a podcast that covers an area of special interest).