In 2007 I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome - a high functioning expression of autism. Like many adults on the autism spectrum, the diagnosis gave me a precious ‘compass point’ to reflect with compassion on my past, and to embrace my future with the success that comes with self-knowledge.
For me, success meant the synchronicity of my diagnosis coinciding with my graduating as a psychotherapist, and the decision to counsel others on the spectrum from my deeply held conviction that autism could be treated from a position of health, rather than pathology.
Some were puzzled and amazed that a person on the autism spectrum could specialize in helping others sharing the same condition, and asked me how it was that I had managed so well. Reflecting on the question ‘why?’ led me to writing not a ‘case study’ but a ‘life’, in the hope that in this life’s telling, an explanation might come to light.
I recognized within the story of my life, a pattern of determination and courage to take my place in society. This led me down many paths, from beauty therapist to Catholic nun, to wife, mother, mental health professional, and writer; each choice leaving its indelible mark, not only on myself, but also on those with whom I came into contact both in my private and professional life.
As I look back over a decade of service to those on the autism spectrum, I clearly see that my desire to work in the field of autism spectrum conditions came as a sense of vocation, as something precious and not to be entered into lightly, but wholeheartedly.
All of us (whether on the autism spectrum or not) are called to relate to and connect with others, appreciating their uniqueness, letting them be who they are, and to rejoice in the differences.
Digging down to the bedrock of the condition we call autism, I came to discover not only health, but also advantage! We do not ‘grow out’ of autism, rather, we grow ‘into it’, developing a unique capacity to relate equal to, if not surpassing that of our neurotypical peers.
In response to what I have learned over the whole arc of my personal and professional life, I have developed a new model of psychotherapy: Reflective Integration Therapy™, and I invite each and every one of you to join me in my therapeutic endeavour: to witness to the depths, the integrity and dignity of those on the autism spectrum, and to affirm that indeed, autism contains within itself the seeds of its own liberation.