It is important for neurotypical therapists to understand that social interaction can be exhausting for autistic people and other people who are neurodivergent, especially if they are being pressured to imitate neurotypical mannerisms and mask their autistic behavior and feelings. Therapist Neurodiversity Collective therapists don’t “train” social skills. Historically, social skills therapy has been generally based upon neurotypical expectations which do not take into consideration the diversity of the populations we serve.

Examples of Pro-Neurodiversity Objectives:
  • Self-Advocacy
  • Perspective Taking: Self and Others
  • Interoception for: Self-Regulation, Self-Awareness, Flexibility of Thought, Intuition, Perspective Taking, Problem Solving, Social Understanding
  • Teaching how one’s body sensations  correlate to emotions
  • Figurative Language: Metaphors, Similes, Personification, Hyperbole, Symbolism
  • Building upon strengths


Note on Perspective Taking Therapy: 
Targeting perspective-taking may include teaching children and teens to understand how and why neurotypical act the way they do in various settings and situations. We do not use rote social scripts or social stories that compel verbal or behavioral compliance as this takes away self-determination and leads to inauthentic communication.this takes away self-determination and leads to inauthentic communication. 

Targeting perspective-taking may include teaching consenting Autistic people (old enough to determine their personal “social skills” goals, and old enough to understand potentially harmful aspects of masking) neurotypical socially expected norms in various social, educational and work environments. Clients will self-determine if, or when they choose to use this knowledge.

Examples of Ableist Objectives:
  • Treating Autism
  • Eye Contact with Communication Partner
  • Quiet Hands and Whole Body Listening
  • Extinguishing perceived neurodivergent social deficits
  • Teaching social scripting that encourages masking (feelings, emotions, stimming, sensory needs, quiet hands, compliance for rehearsed role-play, etc.) “Social Stories*” that are written and used in a manner that is meant to compel compliance
  • Social skills goals that focus on making the client appear indistinguishable from their neurotypical peers

For Further Reading:

“Training” Social Skills is Dehumanizing
How to address pragmatic language and social skills while respecting neurodivergent differences. 

Why Perspective-Taking and Neurodiversity Acceptance? (Part 2 of “Training” Social Skills is Dehumanizing: The One with the Therapy Goals)

On Writing Masking Goals for Autistic Middle School Girls – Stop It!

The costs of camouflaging autism

The Consequences of Compensation in Autism

Masking: I am not OK

For Those With Autism, Eye Contact Isn’t Just Weird, It’s Distressing

Eye Contact: Is It Important?

What’s The Problem With Whole Body Listening?

The Self-Advocacy Curriculum is a tool that is intended to help individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities learn more about the self-advocacy movement; celebrate neurodiversity; cultivate local self-advocacy groups; and ultimately, become and remain empowered through self-advocacy. – The National Autism Resource and Information Center and the Autistic Self Advocacy Network

THINKING PERSON’S GUIDE TO AUTISM – The Meaning of Self-Advocacy  “Self-advocacy has been and is still often labeled intransigence, non-compliance, treatment resistance, lack of motivation, behavior issues, violence, manipulation, game-playing, attention-seeking, bad attitude, bad influence, babbling nonsense, self-injurious behavior, inappropriate behavior, disrespect, disruption of the milieu, catatonic behavior, social withdrawal, delusions, septal rage syndrome, and even seizures or reflex activity.”

The ARC -POSITION STATEMENTS – Self-Advocacy  “People with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (I/DD) must have the right to and be supported to act as self-advocates. Self-advocates exercise their rights as citizens by communicating for and representing themselves, with supports in doing so, as necessary. This means they have a say in decision-making in all areas of their daily lives and in public policy decisions that affect them.”

SO WHAT MAKES A GOOD THERAPIST? “Good therapists help children with finding ways to communicate, fostering independence without pushing too hard, understanding sensory issues, self-advocacy, learning to jump or ride a bike, understanding how to assess people and situations for danger, processing emotions in a way that is self-validating, and learning many new things the child desires to enhance their life.”

Autistic People. So, new Research. Different social skills, not broken ones 

Introception “The ability to tune into the activity of our internal organs is called interoception and there is emerging evidence that this ability is linked to how well a person is able to identify their own emotional state and to empathise with others.”

GETTING TO KNOW YOURSELF – INTEROCEPTION AND AUTISM

Activity Guide – Interoception 201

What is interoception? “Interoception is a pre‐requisite skill for self‐management and self‐regulation. It provides the tools to know when we are developing emotional reactions and the skills to be in control of those reactions

© 2018, 2019, 2020 Therapist Neurodiversity Collective