Autism and Counselling

I was reminded of part of a conversation I had with my job coach and one of her other clients last week, at a meeting she arranged between the three of us because she wanted to assess my ability to work directly with (autistic) clients. (which feels to me like it backfired, I think, primarily because the client said, up front, that they were there because she asked them to come.)

particularly, something the client mentioned is that they’ve seen several counsellors over the years and that these counsellors didn’t do anything for them. they clarified that the reason they went to these counsellors is that various people told them they should.

folks, if you think someone should see a counsellor, articulate why, especially if they are autistic. counselling is a collaborative problem-solving process, it is not a fix-it shop for “something’s wrong with [you]”. if you cannot articulate the problem that you think they should see a counsellor for, instead of telling someone to see a counsellor, think about what you are really saying.

because what I heard when they said that people told them they should see a counsellor is “I think [they are] broken”. if you need someone to explain why that is a shitty thing to say to someone, that’s something you need to work on. counsellors cannot solve problems they are not presented.

a developmental paediatrician I know notes that a similar problem that she sees is things that are labelled “interventions for autism”, rather than things that are “counselling to help this autistic person be less anxious in specific situations”.

the vast majority of the issues we autistic people face have to do with managing anxiety and stress. we overproduce stress hormones like cortisol and it also takes longer for us to clear those hormones and recover from stressors. this is not helped by the fact that we frequently lack the ability to filter things that can be stressful. loud music, artificial heating, certain smells, other conversations, the clinking of silverware on dishes, certain textures (both of the things we touch and the things we put in our mouths)…all of them can be difficult for us to manage, and things add up quickly when multiple stressors are present. and that is not an exhaustive list by far.

the supports that would benefit us the most, that we should be equipping autistic children with, are coping strategies and anxiety & stress management techniques. there are going to be unavoidable stressors, and the sooner and better equipped we are to manage those stressors, the more able we are to do the things that you want us to be able to do.

I’m going to close this rant with something I want y’all to think about:

we don’t know what a non-traumatised autistic person looks like because there are no non-traumatised autistic people.