What Makes a GOOD Therapist for your Autistic Child ~ Autistamatic

What do you look for to find a good therapist for your autistic child? There is no general “autism therapy”,.


What do you look for to find a good therapist
for your autistic child? There is no general “autism therapy”, only
therapy for the many individual needs of each unique autistic person. Each of those needs has to be addressed separately
and sensitively. Good therapy builds on a child’s intrinsic
motivation to learn and connect with others. It’s a collaboration, not a battle. Effective therapists focus on your child’s
needs, and what will help them navigate the world, not just what will make yours or their
teacher’s lives easier. They respect your child’s needs & feelings
– they need to see inside the child’s inner experience. They will always ask but never tell your child
how they feel. Decent therapists aren’t bothered if your
child doesn’t want to make eye contact. If they want to they will and they will learn
when people like it to be used as time passes. They also know that your child’s stimming
is harmless to everyone and necessary for their peace of mind and concentration. Why stop it if it’s hurting no-one? Does your child sometimes or always find speech
uncomfortable? Their therapist will respect that and work
with whatever kind of communication they feel OK with – sign language, written word, AAC or whatever
works for them. All good therapists respect your child’s
bodily autonomy. They don’t touch without permission or restrain
children unless they’re in danger. The best therapists know that the most efficient
way to help an autistic child grow is not to work on their behaviour, but to work on the causes of that behaviour.
Find what makes them anxious, hurts their senses or causes them distress so they don’t
feel the pain that their behaviour has been communicating. Any plans or changes to routine will be designed
as a collaboration between the therapist, parents and most importantly the child being helped. Therapy is about facilitating, not forcing
change. Sensory differences are a key aspect of our
lives for most autistic people so the therapist will be learning about the
sensory world of your child from day one. They’ll remove painful stimuli and help
them understand how to cope with them when they can’t be avoided. Any goals that are set will be based on what
the child wants to achieve, and with input from you – their parents, not what the therapist thinks are appropriate
or based on arbitrary expectations of society. Children sometimes say “NO”. All worthwhile therapists know that it’s
a powerful word and needs to be respected. It’s the child who sets the boundaries,
not the person working with them. When we train dogs we rely on punishment and
reward to encourage them to comply. That’s not the way we help a thinking, feeling,
reasoning human child to learn. It takes more effort to help a child understand
the VALUE of working on something, but it’s the only way to respect their dignity. Most autistic people have consuming passions
– “special interests” as they’re sometimes called. They’ll be encouraged and listened to when
they talk about their interests, because depriving access to these or refusing
to engage with them is a form of punishment. That’s dog training again. There will be times when your child gets distressed
in their sessions. The best therapists don’t fight it – they
know that it’s a valid expression of real feelings. They don’t push your child to stop or get
over it – they help them to feel safe. They are kind, tolerant and they trust the
child they’re helping. They understand how hard change can be, especially
for an autistic and they know that your child is doing their best. This is about your child’s well being, not
fitting them into a standardised box. When those signs of distress start to show,
they reduce the demands, maybe change tack for a while. They know that using force only creates a
temporary illusion of change, not long term change that will enrich their future. Therapy is a process and parents will need
to make gradual changes as the process reaches different stages. The therapist will act as their guide through
this, making them aware of all progress and how this will affect and enhance their family. Autistic people spend most of their lives
around people who are NOT autistic. Part of the aim of good therapy will be to
help your child learn how to understand how non-autistic people are different to them
and to understand them better. A child that knows this will be better equipped
to teach those not on the spectrum how best to interact with them in the future. No therapist needs to scold or be frosty to
the child in their care. They will be warm, kind and inclusive – it’s
the best way to achieve a rapport with your child and help them to grow. They will make progress because they feel
PART of the process and wish to please, not because they are afraid of the consequences. The child’s self-esteem is the key to growth. Sometimes it is not the experience that is
negative but the way we interpret or react to it. Helping someone reframe that experience and
understand they are not the problem themselves will help them retain their dignity and not
resent their differences. All autistic adults were autistic children
once. The best therapists know this and, if they’re
not autistic themselves, they’ll know that the best source of understanding, the most fertile ground for new information
to help them improve their skills, is autistics who have grown up – which might even include YOU. Therapists like this are not always easy to
find, but if you find one, hang on to them, tell your friends why they are so good, post it online – even shout it from the rooftops – and watch as your child grows and learns to
thrive.

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