Rebecca Taylor - Psychotherapy and Counselling in West Yorkshire

UKCP registered Psychotherapist, M.A. Psychotherapy, Neuro-Diverse Specialist

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) - Asperger's Syndrome (AS)

'Not all of us on the spectrum are destined for greatness; nor are all of the children with autism who struggle actually "secret-geniuses" who will blow the world away with their brilliance someday. But we are all human beings who need to be able to get by from day to day with some small measure of independence and strength.'

Jennifer McIlwee Myers

How do I work with people who have ASD traits or a diagnosis? 

I have had the honour and privilege of working with young people and adults with Asperger's Syndrome (AS), or traits and their parents, siblings and partners for many years. On a personal level, my three children have AS.  

A common request from people with AS is to try and better understand people and the world in which they live. For those who want to come to therapy there is often a need to develop a greater maturity and insight into the thoughts, feelings and intentions of others. In my experience there can be a limited ability to express inner thoughts and emotions. There are lots of reasons for this, which we can discuss, but sometimes this can also be due to a limited vocabulary. Most people with AS have never invested the time to expand their 'feelings' vocabulary as it is not an area they are naturally drawn to, but we can work on that so relating with 'neuro-typicals', those people without traits or a diagnosis, is made easier. 

Some people with AS struggle to understand and process what I am saying which can make therapy confusing and stressful. Again, there are lots of different ways we can work to make it easier, my aim is to provide explanations and information. It is important for you to be able to articulate your perspective and intentions better so you can cope with your day to day living.

How do I work with people closely relating to people with traits or a diagnosis?

For parents/partners with a loved one who has just been given a diagnosis it can be a very  emotional time and I want to acknowledge that. We humans do not like change or difference and a diagnosis means just that, we can often feel overwhelmed and frightened. However, with knowledge and commitment anything can be achieved for everyone.

During therapy we will spend time coming to terms with what AS means and how that may affect the future. I want to stress that there are lots of positives as well as some restrictions. Your therapy will provide you with new skills that will  enable  you to relate to loved ones in a way that is helpful and insightful in a calm and productive way. Amongst other things I offer education to help you understand why a person with AS does not relate in conventional ways, how emotions vary and how we can all make the necessary adjustments.The most common request from 'neuro-typicals', is to gain some much needed insight into the mind of the person with AS.

Theory of Mind (ToM)

When working with ASD and AS I will sometimes talk about the Theory of Mind (ToM). It means the ability to recognise and understand thoughts, beliefs, desires and intentions of other people in order to make sense of their behaviour and predict what they are going to do next. A young person or adult with AS may not recognise or understand the cues that indicate the thoughts and feelings of another, at a level expected for someone of that age.

There are a range of tests designed to assess the maturity of ToM but for therapy I do not believe they are necessary. What tends to happen within our sessions are the key points of ToM are naturally introduced and we talk about their presentations and I can offer some strategies to help with day to day living .I have listed the key points below:

  • difficulties reading the messages in someone's eyes
  • making a literal interpretation of what someone says
  • being considered disrespectful and rude
  • being remarkably honest
  • having a sense of paranoia
  • difficulties with persuasion, compromise and conflict resolution
  • a different form of introspection and self-consciousness
  • not understanding embarrassment
  • anxiety
  • processing social information using intelligence rather than intuition
  • physical and emotional exhaustion

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