The Responsibility For ‘Up-Skilling’ Autism Knowledge

I wanted to come back to a bit from a study I talked about before because as much as I’d love to find psychotherapeutic support from someone who already is versed not just in autism but late-diagnosed adult autism, in many ways I would love it if a therapist asked me to educate them.

Many participants felt a need for professionals to be better trained in autism to ‘realise it may not always be possible to accurately read a person with autism’ (120F). Participants felt that this up-skilling of autism knowledge was not their responsibility: ‘some of them have asked to borrow books from me about autism or asked me to teach them about it and I feel that shouldn’t be down to me’ (181F). These experiences suggest that professionals were often ‘well-meaning’ (176M) but lacked knowledge of the different way in which autistic people communicate and socially interact, and the implications for their treatment and support.

The entire reason I’ve begun to feel a bit like psychotherapy hates autism is that I’ve spent almost a year writing about my experiences as a late-diagnosed autistic adult but to my knowledge no therapist (or anyone else in a position of authority over me) has ever read more than a post or two. Certainly the therapist who determined for Social Security that I’m not disabled didn’t.

It’s begun to make me doubt health practitioners in general.

Patients presume that their doctors read up on their health and treatment history (else why are we always making sure to provide past records to new practitioners?), and in the psychotherapeutic realm shouldn’t that include whatever history the patient already has of discussing their issues? If therapists don’t want to read a patient’s history, do I now need to assume that none of my doctors bother to get up to speed before treating me, either?

When it comes to mental heath, should we not consider a patient’s own pre-existing words, in whatever form they’ve put them, to be part of their treatment history? Therapists keep notes. So do patients. If patients think that sharing those notes with their therapists will help their treatment, shouldn’t therapists oblige?

(I’d push the posit further: if difficulty with socially performative circumstances is part of a patient’s impairment, shouldn’t the ADA require that therapists provide at least some form of accommodation given that therapeutic norms tend to be socially performative by nature?)

I’d be prefectly happy to consider “up-skilling of autism knowledge” my responsibility. Mental health professionals, please just ask. I’d love for you to ask. Then, and only then, maybe we’d have something to talk about.