SLPs directly contribute to autistic outcomes of trauma and suicidality through social skills training
My hope is this article, if nothing else, ignites some #SLP self-reflection as well as deeper dives into contemporary autism research, especially #TheDoubleEmpathyProblem, #ActuallyAutistic perspectives, and how, despite altruistic intentions, our clinical practices continue to impact trauma on our autistic students and clients.
The vast majority of new-to-me students come with IEPs that have, probably well-meaning, but in actuality, toxic social skills goals. Here are some alternatives.
Neurodiversity-affirming therapy: Dozens of neurodiversity-affirming therapy goals and best practice resources for ally SLPs and OTs.
“… scores on the CAT-Q indicate she engages in a significantly higher level of camouflaging than neurotypical people and elevated camouflaging even when compared to other autistic individuals. It is highly likely that she has camouflaged so much and for so long that she fails to see some of her autistic traits even though they may appear obvious to others.”
But, training the autism out of an autistic person is neither ethical nor accepting of neurodiversity. Deficit-driven clinicians continue to attribute any Autistic social difference as “deficient” but flat out ignore the fact that social communication reciprocity is a two-way street. Nothing about Social Skills Training is neurodivergence-affirming therapy. Absolutely nothing.
Our autistic female students are constantly mimicking and copying behaviors of peers so they can hide their autism. We, as clinicians, teach them to do this because we were taught that autism must be hidden and masked through the therapy we provide. We are licensed, credentialed ableists, “therapizing: our autistic students to learn to be in a constant state of making in order to be acceptable, to be worthy, to be liked.
Why Perspective-Taking and Neurodiversity Acceptance? (Part 2 of “Training” Social Skills is Dehumanizing: The One with the Therapy Goals)
Wasted years upon years of endlessly drilling autistic children and adolescents to memorize and parrot “appropriate” rote phrases for specific social situations will not lead to their peers perceiving them as more likable. Social skills training is not a “cure” for autism despite what the ABA industry would like for us all to believe. All “social skills training’ does is to teach autistic people how to mask their autism. And the potential harms of masking (exhaustion, anxiety, depression, frustration, decreased self-esteem suicidal ideation) are significant.
Dictating how an autistic person is expected to communicate in specific social situations takes away their self-determination. Training people as one trains animals is appalling. Therapist Neurodiversity Collective believes in respecting the authentic social communication of all people, which includes all Autistic people, rather than compelling compliance for neurotypical expectations through a system of rewards and punishments.