After a break for summer, TAP opened it’s doors on 14 September for another eagerly awaited Talk. A large and enthusiastic audience of members and guests welcomed Corrina and Nick Wood for their presentation entitled `Working with clients on the autistic spectrum`.
Corrina has spent many years working with families where there is a child with Autism, is a licensed facilitator of the Cygnet Programme, a course for the parents and works within `Platypus Training and Consultancy` at Bristol. She and her husband Nick have four children who although are very different, are all on the Autistic Spectrum. Nick is an Accredited BACP counsellor and heads up the counselling team at Gloucestershire County Council and has a special interest in the field of Autism.
With the aid of a PowerPoint presentation (download available HERE), the audience was asked what Autism is? According to The National Autistic Society, `Autism is a lifelong, developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them` while Platypus sees it as a `neurodevelopmental condition that enables an individual to process, connect and experience the world differently.` It is believed that where Autism is present there is also an increased risk of developing mental health issues, suicide and co-occurring conditions. Currently there are more males being diagnosed with the condition than females. The audience also heard that girls present differently to boys and it is thought that the parents of children with Autism are more stressed than parents of children with other disabilities.
Corrina and Nick explained that it’s estimated that at least 90% of people with Autism also have some degree of sensory difference and that evidence has suggested a genetic link. It’s said that Autism can occur with or without intellectual impairment and that’s it’s different for everyone.
Moving on to patterns of social interaction, Corrina and Nick spoke of ‘Aloof’ – this is where the individual is ‘in their own world’, not wanting to interact with others. Another style is ‘Passive’ where some individuals are happy to be on their own but are open to interaction with others if approached. ‘Active-but-odd’, was mentioned next but this label has been in decline of late but refers to the individual who wants to interact with others, but doesn’t have the skills or understanding to do so appropriately. Lastly came ‘Formal & Stilted’, here as the name suggests, individuals are very polite and use very formal language.
Therapists in the room having listened intently to Corrina and Nick’s presentation no doubt at this stage pondered to question `How do I best work with clients with Autism?`. The answer lay in the next PowerPoint slide which suggested that we prepare well for the session and that we don’t scare the client. This may necessitate the therapist changing traditional styles of therapy such as maintaining eye contact, which don’t appear productive. Seeking out peer support or a Supervisor with experience of client group was said to be useful and interestingly the consideration of sensory issues within the therapy room, an example of the latter being given afterwards as being a client getting distressed by the combination of colours on a therapy room bookshelf. An awareness of societal biases is essential as is the question of what it really means to be treated as different.
Handouts are available to download HERE and HERE
Following the vote of thanks, TAP members and guests enjoyed a hot beverage and were tempted by a fine selection of biscuits, while discussing the superb presentation by Corrina and Nick Wood. The next TAP talk takes place on 19 Oct 2018, when Andrew Pritchard, CEO, Mind in Taunton and West Somerset, presents `A local mental health charity, what it does, when, where and how`. All are most welcome.
David Trott TAP Council Member