A discussion around Autism: Neurodivergent Perspectives
From its original description as being a form of childhood schizophrenia, later a parenting problem and finally a developmental disorder, autism has undergone some drastic changes over the last hundred or so years. In light of these drastic changes in understanding of the condition so has the therapeutic intervention of autism undergone some drastic changes. Unfortunately, during this time, therapists have at times attempted to take away the unique traits and perspectives that are uniquely associated with autism. Essentially, they seek to mould and shape individuals into “normal”. Yet during the 1990’s a movement known as neurodiversity began to recognise, accept and respect these differences, rather than criticise and change them.
Which brings us to the point of what is Neurodivergent?
Essentially, every single brain is different. Yes, they look the same from the outside, but put them underneath a powerful MRI or microscope and you’re going to find that every neural pathway is different for everyone. Now, some brains are very similar and people with neurotypical traits can think in some very similar ways. They see the world in a rather, straightforward, one-of-a-kind way in some ways. But, people with neurodivergent traits….people with autism…. what if they have a brain that functions different to others, that isn’t broken, but enables them to see things that people with neurotypical traits don’t, feel things people with neurotypical traits can’t and experience things that people with neurotypical traits can’t? What’s even better is that each person with neurodivergent traits is different themselves, so much individuality going on! Do they need some help with things? Yes, everyone does on some level. Do we need to deny who they are to help them? No.
Neurodivergent with Therapy
So, for all those who have neurodivergent traits, what does this mean for therapy from a neurodivergent approach? Well, there should be no use of extreme rewards and punishments to turn someone with autism into “neurotypical”. We want you to be an awesome neurodivergent! Therapy will help someone with autism acknowledge and accept their feelings, understand their feelings, and find a safe way to manage and express them. Therapy will not help them squash emotions or deny them. Therapy will help someone with autism understand emotions and behaviours to help them in their relationships with others. Therapy will help people with autism explore who they are, autism and all. Therapy will help people with autism identify their strengths and how these can be successfully applied to the classroom or workplace. For parents of an individual with neurodiverse traits, therapy will provide them with strategies to see their child through this journey and make their home as stress-free as possible.
I hope this has given you a little bit of an understanding of my thoughts on working with autism: neurodivergent clients and what I have learnt over the years. I look forward to meeting you soon.
Author: Sharyn Jones, B Psych (Hons).
Sharyn Jones is a Brisbane psychologist with 10 years of experience working with adults, adolescents and children and their parents. Using a combination of cognitive behavioural and solution-focused therapies, she aims to facilitate positive changes in clients’ lives so that they can achieve and obtain their desired goals.
To make an appointment please call Vision Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3088 5422.
Kassam, N. (2022). Neurodiversity: Natural brain variations that should be embraced and celebrated. https://constanttherapyhealth.com/brainwire/neurodiversity-natural-brain-variations-that-should-be-embraced-and-celebrated/
Zeldovich, L. (2018). The evolution of “autism” as a diagnosis explained. https://www.spectrumnews.org/news/evolution-autism-diagnosis-explained/