When we search for autism training online we are met with a whole selection of autism courses. Some offer courses on “understanding autism” that last for about three hours. If you saw a three hour course on “understanding women” or “understanding neurology” would you think you would get all of the information you needed? Would three hours give you an in-depth and real understanding of women or neurology? Most likely not and so three hours of an overview based on the deficit model will not give you any insight into autism or indeed Autistic people. AUsome Autism Training Online breaks up many complex areas of autism into short courses so that you can really get an insight into what it is like to be Autistic.
What are some of the problems we come across with autism training online?
- based on deficit model
- has no Autistic input
- is outdated
- based on stereotypes
- designed by non-autistics
- use person first language
- focuses on behaviours
- encourages behavioural approaches
- uses “proven interventions” which are rejected by Autistics
- uses problematic functioning labels
Autism Training online that is based on deficit model
Autism Training online, or indeed offline, that is based on the deficit model of autism is not helpful to Autistic people. Neither is it helpful for people who love us or work with us because it creates problems. If you are to believe that Autistic children and adults are deficient then everything that stems from that will not be helpful. The deficit or medical model of autism says that Autistic people have deficits in communication. This has been disproven by anecdotal evidence from the Autistic Community and through formal research which shows that Autistics actually have a social communication that is specific to us. Not defective, not faulty, not wrong, specific to us in the same way that people who are not Autistic have a social communication specific to them.
If autism training suggests that Autistic children need to be taught how to interact, communicate and play then it is actually going against the wishes and needs of Autistic people. These suggestions, approaches and methodologies are actually harmful to the Autistic sense of self and should be avoided. The idea that Autistic children and adults somehow lack social skills is inaccurate, unfounded and oppressive. Social Skills Training can actually encourage Autistic children, teens and adults to mask. Masking is a concept that is often left out of autism training which is not led by Autistics. Autism Training online can often fail to address the issues which actually face the Autistic Community.
Autism Training which begins with “autism is a neurodevelopmental condition” is outdated and inaccurate and shows little understanding of what it actually means to be Autistic. Autism Training which discusses “symptoms” of autism is severely outdated. Autism Training online that mentions “three core deficits” and expands these to being “impaired communication, impaired reciprocal social interaction and restricted, repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behaviours or interests” is grossly outdated and based on research and stereotypes which do not include the Autistic viewpoint. If your autism training goes on to talk about “The presentation of these impairments is variable in range and severity and often changes with the acquisition of other developmental skills” then this is also based on the deficit model of Autistic people and shows no insight into how we communicate, feel, think, move and live. Autism Training that talks about autism instead of Autistic people is not serving Autistic people or the people who love us and work with us.
Autism Training that has no Autistic input
A sad and unfortunate fact is that most autism training online is based on ideas and research which excluded Autistic people. These ideas are based on the outside observations and assumptions made by well-meaning but misinformed professionals. Representation from Autistic people is missing. Assumptions are not fact checked and the results on our mental health, development and sense of self are not included in these assumptions. Much of the advice given in autism training is not only unhelpful to Autistics but can actively harm us.
Autism Training is often outdated
Recent research is often overlooked, ignored or omitted from autism training online and offline. ThrivingAutistic.ie tells us that “on a practical level, this research has just begun to trickle into practice in western countries. Research generally states it takes around 17 years for just 14% of new scientific discoveries to enter clinical practice.” Many important insights and facts about Autistic people are not part of autism courses provided to parents, educators, teaching assistants and practitioners who work with Autistic children and adults. As well as the research previously mentioned with regards to social communication there is also Damian Milton’s Double Empathy Theory and Montropism. A huge survey in Scotland of 4.5 million people showed that 15% of Autistic people were diagnosed with Intellectual Disability yet there is an idea that autism is an intellectual disability. If we listen to the non-speaking adults in our community then we also learn that many non-speaking Autistics were misdiagnosed with ID instead of motor neuron conditions so there’s a possibly that this 15% is inaccurate also. There are far too many stories of non-speaking Autistics who are highly intelligent but were diagnosed with “severe autism” as children instead of actually being diagnosed with motor conditions like Apraxia. Many Autistics who receive this label are not afforded the same opportunities as those of us without an ID label. Many are not taught AAC or given access to modes of communication that other people can understand. How many non-speaking Autistics had input into the autism training we see online?
Autism Courses that are based on stereotypes
Autism Training online that teaches you to look out for “signs of autism” is often based on stereotypes. This means that a child who is outgoing, friendly and sociable is often not considered to be Autistic. Likewise someone who is highly empathetic may not be considered to be Autistic because of the myths around us lacking empathy. “Delayed speech and communication issues” is a stereotypical idea. In reality many of us speak before we are one, some of us before we are three, and some of us at eight or ten. Some of us will communicate through AAC once we are given access to it. The idea that Autistics are delayed is another inaccurate idea. This idea is based on measuring us against non-autistic development. But Autistics do not develop like non-autistics. We have our own developmental path. We develop Autistically. Courses may warn you about the Autistic child’s “lack of eye-contact” but eye contact is often not part of Autistic Communication because of the way we take in information through our sensory systems. Autism training courses both online and offline will often focus on reliance on routines and rules even though many Autistics do not accept rules when they are illogical or pointless. The reliance on routines is a very human behaviour and this is where autism training which focuses on Autistics as deficient ignores the fact that Autistic behaviour is human behaviour. There is also a stereotypical idea that Autistics can’t understand other people’s emotions but many of us are highly empathetic and can pick up on other people’s emotions quite easily. Of course it’s important to point out that most of the data collected on autism was collected on Autistic boys so Autistic girls will often not fit these narrow and stereotypical ideas.
Courses that are designed by non-autistics
When autism training courses online have been designed by people who are not Autistic themselves then it is viewing Autistic people through a negative lens and is focusing on the deficit model. There are several problems with this. Autistics are not deficient versions of non-autistic people. We have our own developmental paths and our own social communication. When the non-autistic way of being is held as the gold standard then the Autistic way of being is not respected, embraced or understood. The Autistic way of being is completely dismissed. Training designed by non-autistics also seeks to satisfy the needs of other non-autistics. The focus is on “managing autism” , “managing behaviours” and “supporting positive behaviour”. But that is from the non-autistic perspective. These approaches just seek to make Autistic people behave in a way that is acceptable to non-autistics. This is assimilation of Autistic people and our culture by training others to train us to perform for non-autistic demands. Having a non-autistic trainer deliver a course to non-autistics hoping to gain insight which has been designed by non-autistics based on research which excluded Autistics is just like a course designed by men for other men about women without asking women for their input and guidance or including them in any research. It sounds ridiculous doesn’t it but unfortunately that is actually how many autism training courses have come about.
Courses that use person first language
Person first language is phrasing used which claims to put the person first, above the condition. But is person first language really putting the person first? Not when it comes to autism. Person first language is used when people say “person with autism”. Professionals and parents are often surprised at AUsome Training when we refer to ourselves as Autistic because they have been trained or informed that it is more respectful to say “person with autism” instead of “Autistic person”. Is it respectful though? How many Autistics were consulted before someone decided that this was respectful to us? Well, I’m sure you’re beginning to see a common them in this article so you are right when you think that no Autistics were consulted when others decided what was the most respectful language to use when referring to us. So the promoters of this language that purports to show Autistics respect actually didn’t bother to respect Autistics enough to ask us. That’s the first issue with Person First Language. It is also a language which supports the medical model of autism. Saying a person has or is with “autism” means that they have a medical condition. But many of us have moved away from this oppressive model of autism and are claiming “Autistic” as an identity rather than a condition or disorder. Another issue is that PFL is not supported by the Autistic Community at large. We do not refer to ourselves as “the community with autism” and the majority of Autistics use Identity First Language which has been shown in numerous polls and surveys. If you see autism training online advertised and it has Person first language in it well that’s a sure sign that this autism training hasn’t included any guidance from Autistic people or has chosen to ignore the language used by the community itself. Person first language also isn’t helpful because it insinuates that Autistic people are not people, that we are people with this thing called “autism” and that if we didn’t have this thing called “autism” then we would be just like non-autistic people. But we are not non-autistic people with a thing called “autism”. We are proud Autistic people and we have the right to identify as we see fit.
Autism Courses that focus on behaviours
Autism courses which focus on behaviour are not helpful to Autistic people or those around us. Behaviours are not magically created by autism. Autistic people are human and so we behave in human ways to human responses. Unfortunately autism courses which focus on behaviours fail to see that human behaviour is a reflection of our environment. At AUsome Training we focus on the emotions behind actions or “behaviours” and understand that behaviours are a reflection of the environment. The environment which Autistic people experience is not the same as that experienced by non-autistic people. We cannot look at “behaviours” without evaluating the environment for Autistic people. Many of us are essentially tortured by our physical environment. Some understanding around Autistic sensitivity is understood now but still the focus can often be on making Autistics cope with an overwhelming environment rather than simply changing that overwhelming environment. Autism training courses often fail to look at the social environment and certainly fail to do so from the Autistic perspective. Analysing the environment from the Autistic perspective does not show favourable results for non-autistic people. It shows that Autistics are dismissed, oppressed, excluded and categorised as other. It shows that Autistics are not seen or treated as equal to non-autistics. As humans Autistics are social beings and the lack of analysis around our social environment is just another illustration of non-autistic professionals getting it very badly wrong. To understand anything about “Autistic behaviour” you must analyse the social environment and how other people act towards us and interact with us.
Autism Training that encourages behavioural approaches
Autism is often defined as a behavioural condition. The idea is that autism magically creates behaviours in Autistic people. But as already mentioned behaviours are a reflection of our environment. Behavioural approaches are highly problematic and are rejected by the Autistic Community. So why are behavioural approaches still being advised and implemented in autism training programs? Well for the same reason as already mentioned here numerous times; because Autistic people are spoken over, ignored, not consulted and excluded from approaches which impact them. The “results” people talk about are again measured by an Autistic person reaching non-autistic goals and fulfilling non-autistic demands. There is research which shows the link between Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA ) and trauma and Autistics worldwide are also speaking out against behaviourist approaches. Fortunately for the children of this generation many are listening but so much more awareness around this needs to raised. This element of behaviourist approaches is often omitted from autism training online courses.
Autism Training often encourages “proven interventions” which are rejected by Autistics
If you’ve read this far then you’ve probably guessed what I’m going to say about this. Let’s look at “Proven interventions”. Where is the proof? Who collected it? And who measured the results? Well, the “proof” is the Autistic person reaching a non-autistic goal set out by non-autistics. The “proof” is often collected from parents, teachers and other professionals who work with the Autistic child. Much of this “proof” was collected without ever including the Autistic viewpoint. In fact, most “proof” fails to look at long term effects of the intervention and the impact it has on mental health. Much of the “evidence” in “evidence-based” interventions was created without any input or guidance from Autistic people who have been subjected to these interventions. You can “prove” anything really if you never seek to include the very people you’re claiming to help.
Autism Training uses problematic functioning labels
When trainers talk about “severity” of autism it is problematic for numerous reasons. Firstly, being Autistic is not a negative but when language like “severity” is used then it means that being Autistic is considered a negative way of existing in this world. Secondly, no Autistic is more or less Autistic than any other Autistic. We are all 100% Autistic and do not need functioning labels that measure how near to non-autistic people we are. Thirdly, functioning labels are inaccurate because they often are an incorrect way of measuring someone’s abilities. Many Autistics who are diagnosed with “severe autism” actually have a condition like Apraxia which affects their motor skills and speech. Functioning labels also use perceived ideas around intellectual abilities but we cannot measure someone’s internal world to any degree of accuracy with current tools.
Autism Training Online or offline which employs any of the subjects discussed here is best to be avoided. Autistic-led training like AUsome Training provides up to date scientific information which is backed up and supported by the Autistic Community. Attending autism training that is anti-autistic does not help you or the Autistic person in your life.