Over the years, I have focused working with men diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Autism is a developmental disorder that is a result of differences in the brain. People struggling with Autism experience difficulties with social communication/interaction as well as engaging in restricted and repetitive behaviors and interests.
It's important to note that Autism is a spectrum disorder. This means that individuals with Autism may experience different levels of severity. Mild levels of Autism may result in the person struggling to understand social cues and the presence of certain restricted interests. More extreme manifestations of Autism can result in tremendous struggles with speech and basic social interactions.
It's important to note that my clinical experience is focused on men who have been diagnosed with Levels 1 & 2 of Autism. Although this label is controversial, I've spent most of my time working with men with "high-functioning" Autism. Whether we refer to the levels of severity or "high-functioning" versus "low-functioning" Autism, it's crucial to understand that
the level a person is assigned when they're first diagnosed can shift as they develop and refine their social skills, and as anxiety, depression, or other issues common among people with autism change or grow more severe. Assigning people to one of the three levels of autism can be useful for understanding what types of services and supports would serve them best.It won't, however, predict or account for unique details in their personality and behavior, which means the support and services they receive will need to be highly individualized.
The crux of my work with autistic men is informed by Relational-Cultural Theory (RCT). This is a therapeutic modality created by feminist scholars (Jean Baker Miller, Judith Jordan, etc.) who brought "relationality" back to the center of psychology and therapeutic work. I tell my clients that I am interested in establishing a real relationship with them as a person, not working with a diagnosis. I treat my clients with the dignity, value and worth they deserve. I have found that my emphasis on RCT values like mutual empathy, connection, vulnerability and relational zest have helped autistic clients experience a relational zone they previously struggled to understand.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a useful therapeutic modality for autistic clients.
CBT helps men with Autism understand the connection between their thinking, feeling and behaving. If an autistic client can identify negative patterns of thinking and feeling, they can take active steps toward improving their behavior. A lot of the autistic men I work with are stuck in negative cycles of thinking that contributes to their low motivation. Low motivation results in lack of action and this perpetuates the negative cycle.
My approach is solution-focused. Many of my clients are used to hearing what's wrong with them and how their behavior is strange or inappropriate. My solution-focused approach hones in on my client's strengths and abilities. I believe that each of my clients posses special gifts they can use to experience greater fulfillment and make the world a better place. I love helping autistic men discover what is right about them! My clients don't want to work on goals until they feel good about themselves. Once they reconnect with their strengths, they are ready to make progress.
James Clear's book Atomic Habits informs my work with autistic men. One of Clear's central ideas is that you have to connect habits with identity. I help my clients clarify the person they want to be. After an autistic man knows what type of man he wants to be, he can work toward healthy habits. I discourage choosing habits that are too lofty. These are usually unrealistic and unsustainable. I challenge clients to take baby steps in the direction they want to go. I believe that small, incremental changes can result in massive transformation.
When it comes to areas of growth, I help my autistic clients focus on self-esteem, relationships and vocation. These three areas are important for any man that wants to grow in his independence.
Self-esteem is foundational. How an autistic man sees himself will impact everything else in his life. Low self-esteem will result in depression and lack of motivation. Improving self-esteem takes time and has to be addressed at the level of thoughts, feelings and behaviors. I like to focus on different areas including exercise, appearance, self-talk and spiritual identity. Autistic men will not move forward in life until they feel good about themselves.
Most of my autistic clients are not as social as their peers. That's ok! There's a huge difference between little social interaction and total isolation. I do think autistic men need to experience healthy relationships if they are going to have independence. Some of my clients form alternative collectives online where they connect with others like them. These alternative collectives usually revolve around a shared interest like video games, anime or role-playing activities. Developing social skills is a very important part of my work with men. I spend a lot of time role-playing and exploring real-life scenarios with my clients.
Sometimes my clients and their families don't expect much from themselves. While I do believe that Autism is a pervasive, long-term disability, I think every autistic person is capable of development and growth. I use the word vocation because it captures more than just what a person does for a job. Vocation is an ancient term that comes from the Latin vocare "to call". I see my role as a therapist to help clients wrestle with their authentic calling. Yes, an important part of this process is figuring out what they can do to make a living. But there's more to life than a paycheck. I want to help my clients discover what is going to bring them meaning, purpose and fulfillment.
Start Your Autism Therapy Journey with Quique Autrey: Katy, Tx & Houston
You and your autistic young adult son do not have to do this alone. If you don't know what to do next, please contact me and set up your first appointment. I am here to help. I can work with your family to help bring healing and hope. I'm just off of I-10 and 99. I am centrally located for those living in Katy and Houston. To start your autism young adult therapy journey, follow these simple steps: 1. Contact Katy Teen & Family Counseling. 2. Schedule your first appointment with Quique Autrey. 3. Begin your autism young adult journey and start healing. Your autistic young adult is not defined by his struggles. I want him to realize his true worth and potential. I want your son to embrace a bright future. Imagine what life will look like for your son free of his struggles. The mission at Katy Teen & Family Counseling is to restore hope, happiness, and connected family relationships. I look forward to starting this process of hope and healing with you!