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Working Therapeutically with Clients with High Functioning Autism – with Helen Franklin and Louise Ordish (Nov. 2021)

We were treated to a full day’s seminar on this very important and topical subject, both speakers generously shared with the participants their experiences both personal and professional which added much depth to the seminar experience. 

The seminar was well balanced and paced, with experiential group work, plenary discussions, short videos, as well facts and information on autism.  Helen provided us with further reading and references to books on the subject. 

Our speakers updated us on the recent language and psychological attributions regarding the wide spectrum of autism and the ongoing research and theories which are changing and being enhanced regularly.

We learnt about myth busting Autism, that it’s not just men, or that no emotion is felt.  Helen spoke about the behaviours and needs on those on the spectrum, particularly the sensory issues – hyper and hypo reactions.  The important part of sensory regulation which is key to understanding our clients who may be diagnosed or un-diagnosed with autism.  Recognising how our population with autism realise early in life how they need to adapt to the perceived normality of general society and what the consequences are for their wellbeing and mental health.  

I found this seminar very insightful and useful in two aspects, firstly the issues and challenges concerning relationships, the tone of voice, “social imagination” and “context blindness”. Secondly, the need for therapists to be aware of the therapeutic environment, the room, the layout of the furniture, the sensory aspects of the client’s experience, positioning of therapist and client in the room, noise levels, etc.   I’ve been more thoughtful of the environment and asked clients how comfortable they feel in the room. 

Helen shared her knowledge of the Polyvagal theory – dorsal and ventral, in connection with issues of autism and trauma.

Louise and Helen talked about how to work with clients with autism.  The “stims”, hyper and hypo stimulation often experienced by autistic clients and how the therapist can use phenomenological questions and enquiries to help to access and understand the individual’s lived experiences, as well as the importance of providing the safe space and containment.  

Louise shared the framework for therapists to work with clients and named them as the building blocks of; talking, feeling emotions, thinking, unconscious relating and body.   We enjoyed experiential group work exercises to understand these in more depth and challenge our own preconceptions. 

Helen and Louise explained, the complexity surrounding autism and other pathologies and disorders, which could co-exist or be mis-diagnosed, such as OCD, borderline personality disorders, epilepsy, anxiety and depression and dyslexia, to name a few. 

The seminar was full of content and much to take away and reflect upon, as well as encouraging further reading and to learn more on the subject and importantly, question my own autistic self. 

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Average feedback scores from our event:

Organisation of event: 3.7 out of 5

Speaker: 4.1 out of 5

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Feedback from our event:

“Have really enjoyed the day and feel I have a better understanding of working with  client with ASD. There is far more to understand but I feel this has been a good start” – Sarah Brigden

“I was somewhat apprehensive about the Hybrid meeting, but actually it worked quite well. The odd glitch, but that’s to be expected. I thought the two speakers worked well with each other and gave a bit more ‘life’ to the event.”

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