Working with clients from all backgrounds, ages and at different points in life, I often get asked if someone they may know is autistic? I often respond “what makes you think that” to which they may say things like “they lack empathy, or they have no emotion” This often comes from a concerned partner or a parent as behaviours and thoughts have some link with what we know to be on the spectrum. Or so we may think.
Today after a busy clinic working with 3 families a couple and 4 individuals including a child and 3 adults, I was again asked to give some form of diagnosis. Now, there are several tests that can be applied as well as ongoing therapy and assessments but to be clear is a difficult task given the way people are today. As a specialist we are looking at a number of factors for example, persistent difficulties with social communication and social interaction and restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviours, activities or interests since early childhood, to the extent that these “limit and impair everyday functioning”. I often find that the young people I work with spend less time communicating with each other and their families through the traditional way of talking as their lives are somewhat taken over by the likes of social media and alike. This is a challenge as we have changed the way we are toward people as emotions are at a price and it is so easy to send a smiley emoji and receive a like back. This can validate us in ways we may not receive back from a person who does suffer form some of the challenges the Autistic spectrum can present.
The way we see things is very subjective as individuals as we have our own unique script copied often from our parents or primary carers. The way for example a person with Asperger Syndrome say they see the world feels overwhelming and this can cause them considerable anxiety. Why would they then express this in a way you or I might?
In particular, understanding and relating to other people, and taking part in everyday family, school, work and social life, can be harder. Other people appear to know, intuitively, how to communicate and interact with each other, yet can also struggle to build rapport with people with Asperger syndrome. People with Asperger syndrome may wonder why they are ‘different’ and feel their social differences mean people don’t understand them. This is often present to me in clinic when people try to make sense of the feelings they have and the world around them.
Furthermore, it is very different to make a clear and concise distinction between say someone who is more introvert then someone who just struggles to communicate. Autistic people, including those with Asperger syndrome, often do not ‘look’ disabled. Some parents of autistic children say that other people simply think their child is naughty, while adults find that they are misunderstood. I believe there is so much we can learn from each other if we just try to see things from a different viewpoint and not the “norms” we have grown to believe are the only way. Now we are coming out of Winter and in to Spring it is a good time to look at things from a different perspective and to consider how we all can behave at times and how this may or may not be considered “normal”
In therapy we help clients to assess what “normal” is for them in their world. We use no manual or diagnostic test and we do not consider good or bad, better or worse as this test can only come from the person and the view, they see things from in a challenging world of difference we all live in.