The first time I saw a child diagnosed with Autism was during my undergraduate training and I still vividly remember the instinctive impression I had about Autism. It was a nonspeaking child on the spectrum and as I observed him, my first thought was “Oh, how saintly this child is”! I wondered whether ‘being silent’ was a gift or a challenge? Later, I met some more children on the spectrum and every child was different, each with their unique strengths and big challenges. I had developed a deep curiosity and also pity for children with special needs in general. There was no time to process my feelings and thoughts about these children who were different. Acquiring new clinical skills, learning to ‘manage’ the disability side of these children who were different became a priority. Thereafter, I was mostly externally focused getting enrolled in workshops, trainings, courses and also collecting data. For some time, collecting data became my fascination and I began incorporating discrete trial-data collection and training in my clinical practice. My overall goal was to achieve near normal standards of cognitive-linguistic skills for these children. However, I wasn’t quite satisfied with the protocol for children with Autism and I wondered why! I thought I was missing something about autistic children.
Not very long ago, I took a course titled, ‘Embracing a New Perspective of Autism’ by Lori Shayew, founder of the Gifts of Autism. Later, I learned that she was a pioneer in the field who even thought that Autism comes with gifts too at a time when there was no positive narrative around Autism. During the course, I not only heard about the consciousness of autistic individuals but also uncovered the limitations of my own perception about Autism and how it affected the results I got with these children. For example, Lori helped me see how pity was a limiting perception and how it stopped me unconsciously from exploring more and getting the best out of the children I worked with.
The concept of understanding ourselves, our perceptions, our limiting beliefs and how it impacts our connection with children was something I hadn’t dived deep into. Lori helped me do a great deal of inner work with a few sessions of one on one coaching. My perception of Autism shifted. I started reading and listening to autistic individuals themselves and realized that they hold the key to developing an authentic and an aligned intervention. The slogan ‘Nothing about them without them’ stuck with me. Trying to fit them into normative standards without understanding their unique neurology and their ‘being’ is unfair and causes suffering.
This shift in perception was the beginning of many beginnings! My work with neurodivergent individuals has evolved and continues to evolve as I expand my own awareness, cultivate mindfulness, meditate in silence and pay attention to the tiny details especially when I’m working with children. Nothing exists without a reason; every sensory experience is an event in our consciousness. Yes, CONSCIOUSNESS! Isn’t there a need to understand neurodivergence in terms of consciousness? Unfortunately the ‘C’ (Consciousness) word upsets people more than the ‘F’ word! There are answers not in Speech Pathology alone but in culture, anthroposophy, spiritual practices and wisdom.
Our work and support systems can be great when there is an alchemy of inner and outer technology; the inner technology being our unique innate human abilities that are waiting to be claimed by each one of us.
“As long as you do not die while living, how will you obtain true benefit? Therefore, die and come out of your body. You have died many times, yet you still remain behind the veil, for the method of true dying, you did not learn”.Rumi
Namaste visitors! I am a Speech-Language Pathologist with an integrated work approach. I share my own views and work experiences with children and young adults who have received a diagnosis of Autism, Down’s syndrome, Cerebral Palsy and other conditions and disabilities through this blog.