- Did you know that it’s a myth that Autistic people are lacking in Theory of Mind?
- Did you know that “autistic people share information with other autistic people as well as non-autistic people do with other non-autistic people”?
- Did you know that breakdowns in social interactions with autistic people are not a consequence of autistic “impairment” but a mutual failure in reaching consensus through bidirectional empathy?
- Did you know that Autistic Masking and Camouflaging (hiding autistic traits such as stimming, forcing eye contact, and performing with neurotypical social skills in order to “blend”) can lead to “exhaustion, isolation, poor mental and physical health, loss of identity and acceptance of self, others’ unreal perceptions and expectations, delayed diagnosis”? Suicidal ideation and suicide?
Therapist Neurodiversity Collective members don’t “train” social skills. Historically, social skills therapy has been generally based upon neurotypical expectations that do not take into consideration the diversity of the populations we serve, nor contemporary research and Autistic lived experiences. Therapists who strive to provide respectful and empathetic therapy must embrace a radical paradigm shift from “fixing autistic deficits” through social skills training, to working with a therapy framework based on the research surrounding The Double Empathy Problem and Autistic lived experiences.
Examples of Neurodiversity Paradigm Aligned Pragmatic Language Objectives:
- Self-Advocacy, self-determination, body autonomy
- Perspective Taking: Client and family, instructors, peers’ perspectives are all valid. Neurotypical perspectives and neurodivergent perspectives are equally valid.
- Acceptance training for neurotypical people
- Interoception awareness for Self-Regulation, Self-Awareness, Problem Solving
- Teaching how to recognize one’s body sensations correlate to one’s internal feelings
- Figurative Language: Metaphors, Similes, Personification, Hyperbole, Symbolism, Sarcasm
- Building upon client strengths
Note on Perspective Taking Therapy:
Targeting perspective-taking may include teaching children and teens to understand how and why neurotypicals act the way they do in various settings and situations without the expectation for the child or teen to imitate neurotypical social skills through the masking of their neurodivergence. Equally important is training neurodivergence and autistic acceptance to the peers and adults in the neurodivergent person’s life. Therapist Neurodiversity Collective does not use rote social scripts or social stories that compel verbal or behavioral compliance as this takes away personal agency, and self-determination and leads to inauthentic communication.
Perspective-taking goes both ways because social interaction is a two-way event: If perspective-taking is addressed with a student or client, it must be addressed with their family, instructors, peers, and the other people in the person’s life regarding Neurodivergent/Autistic Social Skills. Research backs this up. Contemporary research in Diversity in Social Intelligence, The Double Empathy Problem, and Autistic Masking demonstrate that social skills training is an archaic approach to therapy.
Examples of Ableist Objectives:
- Treating Autism
- Eye Contact demand with Communication Partner
- Quiet Hands and Whole Body Listening
- Extinguishing perceived neurodivergent social deficits than are actually naturally occurring examples of diversity in social intelligence
- 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 (training autistic people to hide their natural autistic characteristics)
Links to Resources:
“Training” Social Skills is Dehumanizing
How to address pragmatic language and social skills while respecting neurodivergent differences.
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.”
Interoception “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.”
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