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Energy Accounting - are you in credit or in deficit?

Energy Accounting is a tool developed by Maja Toudal and Dr Tony Attwood to help manage fatigue and prevent autistic meltdowns, shutdowns or burnout and improve quality of life.

The concept is based on a bank account but the currency is energy. Every activity, task, interaction, or environmental change in life is associated with either an energy withdrawal or an energy deposit. Withdrawals cause energy to deplete, deposits cause energy to increase, and some transactions are more expensive or valuable energy-wise than others.

This is an important concept because autistic individuals often find that certain situations, environments and activities demand and expend far more energy than experienced by neurotypical people. Autism is a spectrum, so the experiences and challenges each autistic individual faces differ from one another; however, there are unique ways that autistic individuals tend to have to spend energy that neurotypical people do not.

Sensory Sensitivities and Their Impact on Energy

For many autistic individuals, sensory experiences can be intense and overwhelming. Imagine being in a room where every light feels glaringly bright, each sound is amplified tenfold, or the tag on the back of your shirt feels like coarse sandpaper. Sensory sensitivities can affect any of the five senses and even extend to your sense of balance as well as proprioception (body position) and Introception (internal bodily sensations). These heightened sensitivities mean that simple, everyday environments can be massive energy drains for autistic individuals as they process and cope with extra sensory input.

The Mental Effort behind Social Interactions

For autistic individuals, interpreting social cues may not come as instinctively as it might for neurotypicals. A casual conversation, which many take for granted, can be akin to a puzzle. Decoding facial expressions, modulating tone of voice, maintaining appropriate eye contact, and processing spoken words – all simultaneously – can demand a lot of mental effort, which results in rapid energy depletion.

Coping with Environmental Changes and Unexpected Situations

Routine and predictability are comforting for many autistic individuals. When faced with unexpected changes, whether they're as major as a change in their living situation or as minor as a sudden change in today’s plans, the resulting stress can be taxing. Adapting to these changes or even just anticipating potential changes can draw on their energy reserves.

Cognitive Load and Executive Functioning Challenges

Executive functions are high-level cognitive processes that govern tasks like planning, working memory, attention, and problem-solving. Some autistic individuals struggle in these areas. This makes tasks involving organisation, transitioning between activities or multitasking massively energy-consuming affairs.

So how does energy accounting work?

The first step is to identify the things that drain or deplete your energy – the withdrawals from your energy account. Then identify the things that energise or give you energy -the deposits. These will be very individual what energises one person may be draining and exhausting for another. Here are some examples.





Special interest

Making a mistake

Physical activity

Sensory sensitivity

Animals and nature

Daily living skills

Computer games

Coping with anxiety


Over analysing social performance

Caring for others

Sensitivity to other people’s moods

Nutrition/ favourite food

Being teased or excluded


Perceived injustice

Certain people

Once you are aware of your “balance sheet” you can use energy accounting as a tool or technique to help you plan and manage your energy, so you avoid getting depleted.

Using energy accounting to help you at work

At work the concept of energy accounting can help you plan work activities on a daily, weekly or even monthly basis.

During you working day you can plan and schedule activities to give you recovery time, time to process information or “decompress” after a demanding activity or interaction. If you know that being in a team meeting will use a lot of energy you can use this information to schedule an activity afterwards that will energise you. This may not be necessarily be taking a break; it may be doing a procedural task which is predictable and familiar that you can focus on and be absorbed in.

This concept can be extended to weekly planning. For example so if you are travelling into the office or have a day which is going to be demanding you can schedule your work so the following day you can work quietly and independently, if that is the type of activity which will be a deposit into your account.

You may be in a role which projects or work is scheduled over a longer period. If you are aware when you may be working under pressure to meet a deadline, for example, you can use this information to plan ahead. Maybe you can take some time off after. If that is not possible ensure that you are working on tasks which are less demanding in terms of energy such as working on topics of special interest or that are more process driven.

The concept of energy accounting can also be a useful tool when self –advocating and discussing support with your line manager or team members. it is a concept which is easily understood so colleagues are better able to understand why it is so challenging attending back to back meetings for example or why being in an open plan office with bright lights and people talking around you is exhausting.


Energy accounting, at its core, is about understanding, valuing, and optimally managing your energy resources. While every autistic person's experience with energy usage and recovery is unique, the underlying principle remains: by proactively managing energy, you can drastically improve your quality of life.



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