Sunday, January 13, 2008

Counselors for Neuroatypical People

I'm autistic and also have PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). The latter is something I've often received counseling for, but sometimes the fact that I'm autistic and most people aren't gets in the way.
There are two kinds of problematic counselours when it comes to me being autistic - those that think they know autism and those that don't know anything about autism. The first group is by far the worst.
I had a counselor like this. She was a hard of hearing woman with much experience counseling autistic people. She was firmly of the opinion that anyone who was different in any way should try their best to conform. (One of the first signs of this may have been when I innocently commented, upon her saying she was hard of hearing, that I'd noticed she had a slight hint of the 'deaf accent'. She seemed dismayed.) She kept nagging me about stimming and decided my biggest current problem was that I was homeschooled, and she must find me a special education placement. I spent my entire time with her arguing and treating her like an embodiment of one of my teachers.
It's been noted by many autistic people that autism 'experts' really don't have a clue about what it's like to be autistic. The worst thing is that they think they do. So if you try to tell them they're wrong, they often won't listen. They'll sometimes even try to tell you how you feel, as opposed to how you really feel. In my experience, also, they're prone to view autism as a problem, rather than accepting that I really am fine with being autistic.
The second type is much preferable. This is the type I usually have. Generally, they are people who specialize in trauma or more specifically sexual abuse, who, unlike autism experts, really do understand the people they specialize in treating (because the literature on trauma and recovery is much more informed by actual trauma survivors than the literature on autism), and though they know even less about what it's like to be autistic than most autism experts, they know they don't know. This means they are teachable, because they accept that I actually know more about what it's like to be autistic than they do.
However, with the second type, I spend far too much time trying to teach them, and every bit of advice they give is generally aimed at neurotypical trauma survivors, and therefore may not apply very well to me. The biggest problem is that I don't always know how to tell if it applies or not right away, and if it doesn't I can't necessarily explain why. I found it very difficult, for example, to explain why cognitive behavioral therapy does not apply at all to me (I tried to explain why in this post).
Oh, and by the way, here's a survey about emotional experiences:
Click Here to take survey

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