I often work with people who are on the autism spectrum. In all honesty, our therapy sessions are not really very different. It’s all about working with the person and helping them to overcome whatever it is they need help with.
As a therapist for people with Asperger Syndrome, Autism and/or Learning Disabilities, I do make sure that my language is clearer and my sensory acuity is heightened. My sessions are geared to the needs of the person; I’ve worked with people in my therapy room, at their homes and, on more than one occasion, by going for a walk with someone. It’s about ensuring the person is at ease, not overloaded, listened to and worked with in a way that works for them.
My journey towards providing therapy for people with autism began with my boy. Recently I had the honour of speaking at the AKO Autism Expo, at Brunel University, with Alison Knowles, the creator of Ollie and his Super Powers. As an Ollie Coach, I based my talk around the need for therapy services for people with autism. In a short timeline I gave examples of over 9 times that my boy (who is 27) really should have been given the opportunity for therapy in his life. With his agreement I can summarise his story, but will use a personal pseudonym he and I use, for confidentiality reasons.
You see, Eedy is my nephew. I refer to him as ‘my boy’ as I’ve had the privilege of being his ‘mother-figure’ since he was 10. He moved in with me when his mum (my sister) died suddenly. His father had left 7 years previous when he was hospitalised with Guillain-Barre syndrome. He has a shedload of diagnostic labels – learning disability, autism, microcephaly, and ADHD. PTSD has been mentioned, along with ODD and PDA. Lots of letters…and lots of behaviours to justify them.
A few months after moving in with me, I found I could not cope. I was grieving, and had become mother to Eedy and his sister, Mogs. Both have autism. Eedy also could not cope. His behaviour communicated this without doubt. He went into respite care, foster care and now, years on (with other stresses along the way), is living in a residential home.
He has struggled with showing his emotions all of his life. Anxiety, stress, frustration and anger, all is shown through, what is called in care-speak as, ‘challenging behaviour’. In his early teens he was living in a children’s home and was referred to therapy. At the first appointment he hit the therapist, was asked to leave and that was the end of therapy services for him.
His therapy since has been through prescribed medication and support teams who have been trained to use physical intervention.
He’s shared with me some of his beliefs. One’s where he holds himself responsible for some of the losses in his life. They are not realistic. But they are his reality.
We’re beginning to talk through some of his beliefs. Very slowly. At his pace. He comes home when he chooses, so I see him intermittently. By understanding his autism, his learning disability, and using my therapy and Ollie Coach training, we are beginning to work through some of the issues of his past. He’s not tried to hit me. If he did I wouldn’t ask him to leave. We’d just work on that too.