Helpful therapies, treatments & strategies for autistic people
As well as the all-important stimming and enjoyment of our favourite interests and hobbies, there are lots of other therapies, strategies or equipment that many of us have found helpful.
When it comes to therapies, what is important is that any therapists are suitably qualified, have experience with autistic people or are open to learning about autism and listening to autistic people themselves. (Bonus points if they are also autistic or otherwise neurodivergent!) In addition, the therapy or equipment must be beneficial to the autistic person, never just for the benefit of society or the people around them. (This is why most autistic adults do not advocate ABA or any other form of behaviour training).
Psychotherapy should be adjusted to autistic people as they can cause more harm than good otherwise.
Coaching or advocacy can be beneficial, preferably if the coach is autistic themselves or has lived experience of autism in some other way.
Personal assistance is a very valuable tool for many of us. Everyday tasks can be very difficult and sometimes having a little help in this area is all we need. Perhaps this involves someone to keep us on track or to help keep our paperwork in order, or to organise our workspace. To make phone calls for us or write administrative letters or official forms. An assistant can also help us to get going when we get stuck or to begin a task or switch tasks, or prompt us to eat and drink and take care of our personal needs.
These days, of course, there is a second option. That of technology. Digital personal assistants such as Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home devices can help greatly with daily organisation tasks. Then there are many apps and other technologies that can help us with our executive function challenges such as organisation, reminders, time keeping, relaxation, meditation, sleep.
Occupational therapists can work with us to make changes to the environment and reduce negative sensory input and are often one of the most helpful services for autistic children.
Relaxation therapies such as meditation, yoga, mindfulness and breathing therapies can be particularly helpful for autistic people. Gentle cranial osteopathy and therapeutic head massage can be relaxing, soothing or calming, helping to relax us, reduce sensory overload or provide tactile sensory input if we need it. If using scented products be sure to check that they appeal to our personal preferences. Find out more with Guiliana Wheater.
Getting out into nature may be a vital part of everyday life for many of us. Nature has been scientifically proven again and again to have incredibly positive effects on our mental health and well-being.
Music, art, drama or movement therapies help to develop our senses as well as the obvious many benefits to mind and body.
Tents, dens and sensory rooms can be magical and calming for many of us – even something as simple as a small tent in the garden or a sheet draped over two chairs. Or, if space is limited, a small area of the home – possibly screened off – where we can have guaranteed alone time. Sensory rooms are commercially available for children and adults, but a smaller version can be made at home using blackout curtains or a blackout tent and some light up toys and sensory equipment.
Mental health support is, of course, vital. Being autistic in a non-autisticly set up world is exhausting and takes its toll on our mental health. In addition, anxiety is almost a given in many neurodivergent conditions and depression is also a common traveller.
Lots more information and resources specific to autism can be found on our resources page here.
© Vanessa Hughes, May 2022
More information about autism at www.autistic-ness.com