the best autism therapy or intervention

The best Autism Intervention or Therapy

What is best autism intervention or therapy ? When people look for interventions they often don’t realise that accepting autism is the best answer. Autism needs acceptance, not to be pathologized and therapized. Autistic people do not need autism interventions or therapies just for being Autistic, just like left-handed people do not need interventions or therapies for being left-handed. A prime example of Autisticity that is misunderstood by the medical model is Stimming.

Imagine aliens landed and studied us. They watched us sleep and decided that Rapid Eye Movement was a weird and pointless movement we did as we slept. Imagine they decided that we did this because it makes us feel good or to stimulate ourselves and that it looked offensive or inappropriate to them because they did not do it. 

Imagine that they decided that it would make them feel more comfortable if instead of moving our eyes rapidly that we wiggled our little toes instead. Toe wiggling is far more acceptable than eye movements in alien culture. The aliens thought about how they could change our behaviour and set about making up methods to solve a problem which did not really exist. They sought ways to change us through interventions and therapies, much like people have done for autism.

So the aliens developed methods to train us to stop using REM and called them “therapies” and “interventions” to help us. But really they were just helping themselves feel more comfortable around us. They were not helping. 

They spent hours rewarding us for wiggling our toes instead of moving our eyes rapidly as we slept. They punished us by removing rewards when we used REM. They gathered “evidence” on how this was the best therapy or intervention. And all the while they had no idea of the damage they were doing by their actions and mistreatment of us.

They never asked us how we felt about someone exuding this much control over our bodies. They didn’t ask us how that violation impacted us on a mental and emotional level nor did they evaluate the nasty affects of their “therapy” on our bodies and minds. They never evaluated what happened inside when they stopped the movement on the outside, because they just thought it was something very basic that humans do to occupy ourselves.

Now, let me explain where I’m going with all of this.

Professionals looked at what Autistic people do with our movements and decided that our movements are inappropriate. They talk about “redirecting” and replacing our natural movements with other movements. 

They decided this without investigating fully exactly what we are doing with these movements and what each movement signifies. They called it “Self Stimulatory Behaviour” which was eventually shortened to “Stimming”.

But our repetitive movements, and those which other humans do are far far more than this limited and inaccurate interpretation, and interfering with these movements can be deeply harmful. Not only because they are a violation of our personhood but because preventing certain movements actively interrupts or alters the underlying processes and reactions in our bodies. When others intervene by introducing us to ” best autism therapies and interventions” then they disrupt our natural activity and development.

I have heard “therapists” say that hand flapping can be replaced with squeezing a stress ball or some other fine motor activity. This is utter nonsense and shows a real ignorance around human behaviour. 

Hand flapping is an expression of happiness or excitement, it creates a union of flow between our internal environment and the external one. 

To try to replace hand flapping is like trying to train someone to stop smiling and squeeze a stress ball instead, how ridiculous is that and what an utterly futile and controlling exercise! Why the need to control what someone else does with their own body? 

I’ve also heard people who don’t know what they’re talking about preach to others that stimming isn’t necessarily a bad thing that needs to be stifled. But it should be addressed when it’s disruptive to others and interferes with quality of life. Now just think about that in a while when I go into more detail about what Stimming actually is. But for now, please re-read those words “when it’s disruptive to others’”, so if I find someone smiling “disruptive”, I should train them to stop? I must train them to fulfil my needs by suppressing their emotions and cause them mental health issues as a result? 

Remember those aliens? That’s what they decided, that REM looked odd to them and was disruptive. 

Now, of course sometimes these preachers mix up self harm with stimming. We’ll get to that in a bit. 

I’ve also heard misguided professionals say that Autistics are less socially aware than people who are not Autistic and maybe that’s why our stimming is more noticeable or obvious. Again, this isn’t right either. We are socially aware, we are hyper aware of our surroundings and that includes the people in those surroundings.

Justifications for autism therapies and interventions

I’ve also heard professionals justify their “ best autism therapy or intervention” because stimming can cause social exclusion. Well that’s just another lot of old tosh isn’t it. Social exclusion is caused by prejudice. It’s other people’s reaction to stimming that causes social exclusion, not the stimming itself. But naturally it’s far easier to blame a minority for everything than to hold a mirror up to oneself. 

Why aren’t these self declared philanthropists, working to “help” Autistics asking the more important questions? Why aren’t they designing therapies to make people less narrow minded, less rigid in their thinking and less prejudiced? Because self reflection can be painful and why inflict that on oneself when you can redirect that pain on to someone else? 

I have heard “experts” talk about stimming interfering with learning but what they really mean is stimming interferes with sitting still. Fancy that eh? Movement interferes with sitting still, and these people equate sitting still with learning. Stimming is part of learning, it’s actually part of how we learn, as humans. 

They minimise the wonderful art of stimming to “a coping mechanism”. Stimming is a coping mechanism just in the same way REM is a coping mechanism. We “cope” with the inputs, process them and store or remember the important or new bits of information. 

Autism therapies and interventions for redirecting stims

Often, autism therapies or interventions for “redirecting” stims seems justified when they refer to self harm or harming others. But here again, they forgot about human behaviour and that all humans who live under severe stress will exhibit these same actions, movements or behaviours. Because when we have so many bad feelings inside they have to come out. Many autism therapies and interventions actually cause mental health issues for Autistic children and adults.

Redirecting me to play doh when I feel like I need to explode is futile. I’m not looking for input then, I’m looking for a way to output. Rewarding me for not exploding also is a pretty useless thing to try because it does nothing to alleviate the underlying stress and negative emotion. 

Where do these bad feelings come from?

 Well, imagine someone constantly trying to control your every move, treating you like an emotionless machine that needs to be taught to do everything, imagine having no autonomy and no active input into your own life. Imagine people constantly assessing what you do and constantly getting it wrong. Imagine people constantly trying to engage you in their rigid ideas of learning while all you want to do is teach yourself. Imagine what it’s like to have people constantly talk down to you and to talk about you like you’re not in the room. Imagine everyone around you thinking how you move, sense, feel, think and communicate is wrong. 

And that’s just to begin with! 

Yes, we can blame bright lights and loud noises and things that overload but again this is only part of the story but it’s far easier to deflect that self-reflection onto our environment than to look at how we treat and reject people. That mirror really is scary isn’t it. 

So what are we doing? What are humans doing when we use repetitive movements?

We are learning, we are communicating, we are processing, we are filtering and storing. We are soothing, we are recalling and remembering. We are connecting and sometimes yes, we are stimulating ourselves. 

This is all very human and all very important. 

Now why did I talk about REM in the beginning of this? Well because REM is a really good example of stimming that humans do. Now of course “stimming” has taken on a whole new meaning from its rudimentary beginnings. But REM is a repetitive eye movement that humans do as we process, filter and store information from our inputs from our waking hours. It’s part of how we learn new skills. 

Now, remember those aliens? Remember their efforts to redirect our stim they deemed inappropriate? 

Stims are movements which we, as humans, need to do, they have very important underlying processes and purposes. When we stim all sorts of things happen within our bodies, all sorts of proteins and chemicals are created, each one with a purpose and each one with an effect. 

Let’s have a quick look at what happens to humans when others interfere with our stims.

Let’s look at what happens to humans when we are deprived of REM.

When we deprive a human of REM these are some things that scientists say happen: 

increased irritability and excitability, difficulties with thermoregulation, problems with learning and memory, adverse implications for physical and emotional health, reduced coping skills and emotional regulation.

Autistic people are excluded from research on therapies

 Now, we don’t have much research to show what happens to Autistics when others interfere with our essential processes, unfortunately. There is very little research which includes Autistic experiences of all these “best autism therapies and interventions”. We do have lots of biased research that shows the “success” of many autism intervention and therapies, but oddly none of these have looked at long term effects or had much input at all from Autistic people. 

Surely any product or service worth its weight will consult with its clients and customers and not their friends and neighbours or parents to measure the “success” of their offering. 

Surely it’s the end user who gets to define what “success” means to them? But in autism studies most “success” is measured by the aliens who performed the “best autism therapy or intervention” and success is defined as them achieving their goal of getting us to wiggle our toes. That is basically how “success” is measured when it comes to Autistic people. Success is measured on how successful the alien was at attaining their goals rather than the real impacts these goals and processes have had on the human subject. “Best autism therapies and interventions” base their goals on fulfilling the needs of non-autistic people rather than of their Autistic client.

It is quite likely that all this interfering actually causes many issues people have assumed where caused by “autism”. But what if it’s not caused by “autism”? What if it’s caused by people interfering with the very natural and human things we need to do because they haven’t even begun to understand them. What if all this interfering, “interventions” and “therapies” have a really negative effect on our natural Autistic development, on our emotional well being and on our health and mental health? 

What if the “help” is not helpful at all, and worse, what if it is damaging us? 

So what is the best autism therapy or intervention?

The problem begins when perfectly wonderful Autistic things are labelled as wrong. What would life be like for Autistics if they were labeled as right? What if the best autism intervention or therapy is Acceptance? What if we just embraced Autistic children and gave them the freedom and space to develop along their Autistic paths. That would be the best autism intervention or therapy. Acceptance is the best autism intervention or therapy.

No one actually has the right to interfere with another the way that people interfere and experiment on Autistic people. 

At the very least we know that REM is involved in learning new tasks. REM is a stim. Stimming is how we learn new tasks so when “therapists” talk about Stimming interfering with learning, they are talking through their hats. 

It’s time to take off the hat and invest in a mirror.

Find out more about what autism is and is not here

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