Are you serious? Helping people living with ASD becoming more intimate and connected?
This is the question I hear all the time…. (Now, I just want to caution you for this answer being a little more on the “specific part” than the rest of this website: if you don’t already lnow somebody or even yourself living on the Autism Spectrum Disorder (“ASD” or “The Spectrum”), the following text may be Griberich for you… Welcome to “Schmolland”*!)
Very seriously, the answer is: Of course, they can!!! Just ask my daughter.
I know, it’s not really fair. My daughter is my third generation of close ones living on the Spectrum. Since my mother is on the high functionning end of it, I had to deal with (ultimate) lack of any kind of maternal intimacy in my younger life. I would lie if I was telling you that I would be a Wise Intimacy Expert have I not been exposed so early to such a severe lack of deep motherly connection and if it didn’t take me all the ounces of courage I have, to put all of it together. So to help in the process, I first was super lucky to have an angel and a Master at connecting as a grand-father. Since his passing, his now “voice in my head (and my heart and spirit)” lead me to do a lot of research and work on “how to”. Because I wanted to experience with my daughter what my angel of a grand-father gave me, I built psychotherapeutic and sexotherapeutic exercises individuals on the Spectrum could use. At this moment in time, my actual hero is Vanessa Van Edwards, the self-proclamed “Recovering Socially Ackward” Researcher. She does so much, for people on the Spectrum! (and for the rest of us, of course…) I rely as well on the work of both Isabelle Hénault and Tony Attwood for what they have done up to now.
I often talk about my three generations of Aspies: my mother, my ex of over 17 years, and my newly adult daughter. I just kept asking Isabelle Hénault when would she accept to add me, on the Spectrum… Isabelle‘s answer always have been that I am way too social and capable of connections, to be on the Spectrum. But some days, I still have my doubts. You should have seen me in High School… You should have seen me actually disappear, the first time my ex visited me at the office… You should have seen me trying to figure skate in front of judges, whether it was for tests or even worst: competitions! (and please don’t tell my daughter! …Please?) You should have seen me every new session with every new clients for my first 10 years of practice… Well, you get the picture 🙂
I guess I ended up researching so much on Wise Intimate Connections because I was sadly neglectfully “moulded” by an Aspie mother and on the other side, so directly connected by my grand-father, to himself and to his Source. My core question always been: nature, or culture? If both my mother and my daughter are on the Spectrum, well, the common denominator in this equation is….. “me”. As always in my researching mind, I am eager to participate in a research where they study the children of the individuals on the Spectrums and see how it goes… Lately, one of our student introduced us to the concept of “Growers and Fixers”, since I am apparently naturally very much a Coach that focuses on growth, both in myself and my clients. We have a colleague in our clinic that appears to be the exact opposite and that is very much a “Fixer”, since he helps very effectively, clients being “fixed” through his coaching very precise skills for very precise situations. Well, when I started applying this understanding to my practice with Aspies and High Functionning People on the Spectrum, it made my coaching so much more clear and so much more effective. I now utilize this understanding both in my coaching and in my workshops and it seems to work!
I will always remember my ex-mother-in-law’s comment, when I first told her that her grand-daughter was on the Spectrum. She said: “Well, you know that Autistic children are caused by fridge mothers”. I just smiled at the memory of reading this in old Psychology textbooks. But wait a minute, was she saying that I, was a fridge????? It made me laugh sooooooooo hard! If there was somebody that was told all the time how welcoming and warm, and generous with my smiles and open I was, it was me! I just couldn’t fit the “fridge” description. And by the way, I never returned the “compliment” when her own son was diagnosed, but I had an inside smile that I had to work very hard not to let turn into a smirk…! But I could understand how afraid she was at first, to be told that her grand-daughter was not neuro-typical.
So, again, I answer very firmly: “You bet, they can become wisely intimate!” We just have to know how to reach them. The wiring may be atypical, but so what? When they have that Safety Net in place, and when they can build the super hero courage to face it, of course they can be wisely intimate and connecting, as well. I understand that, not everyone on the Spectrum will have the abilities or the skills to do it. But why not offer wise intimacy workshops to the ones who can? Many of my clients in private practice can. They just very often do stuff very differently. And by the way we need to remember that, being on the Spectrum is as diversified as living in the neuro-typical world. So some people can be happy to be more wisely intimate and deeply connected than others. It may please a subgroup of individuals more than others. Some can chose to practice wise intimacy more than others. As long as it is wise and responsible, why limit someone’s ability to be wisely intimate because they are on the Spectrum and it doesn’t come “naturally” for them? We have to offer these specialized workshops to smaller groups anyway, so why not at least try, even if they take “longer” to integrate the material? Or if we have to teach the skills one by one? What is the “problem” if they integrate the material “a-typically” as long as it’s wise and responsible? They most likely will not give us the measure of their getting the skills right at the end of the workshops, but if they are anything like my daughter, something will happen 5 years later and we will realize that they got it all along! I take my chance. And it may be just another way to help them put their “super hero courageous outfit” and use it for themselves and their loved ones!
Actually, I even wish that reading this answer would give at least some close ones hope it doesn’t have to be so freaken hard all the time for every single individuals and their families and friends, on the Spectrum.
*[“Living in Schmolland”? Thanks to the DISBoard Group (Disney blog posts): it is an expression that is used as a metaphor for the “foreign country” we enter, when we deal with our Neuro-Atypical-Loved-Ones. The expression stayed with my family and some of my friends who are also whether on the Spectrum or are parents of loved ones on the Spectrum.]