In OT, therapeutic use of self is such a great tool. Meanwhile, autism spectrum disorder has become a more and more common condition. However, maybe just because of the nature and the necessary skills required for people working in the OT profession, the fact that someone has autism spectrum disorder is probably extremely rare in the profession itself. As I hinted in my previous blog posts, I probably am in some rare company in the profession about this. So, I am going relay some of my personal experience in terms of using my duel perspective as someone having a decent amount of knowledge in OT and an Aspie.
Ever since I let my classmates know about my diagnosis, they have been telling me a good bit of their experiences from a caretaker's, friend's and/or clinician's perspectives. For me personally, this is great, as I have a mild case. (Of course, the fact that they accept me for who I am always helps!) However, for more severe cases, peer support will be a more effective option. While what I am gathering right now might be considered as anecdotal evidence, there are some people as well as caretakers who would prefer these Aspies to talk to some people who has the diagnosis endured similar struggles. Pretty much, this is like these Aspies likes someone who can speak "their language", which is understanding what they are going through. Even though I was diagnosed for a short time, quite a bit of Aspies and their caretakers actually thinks that I bring hope because of what I accomplished so far in my life.
Recently, I read a comment to the status on the Aspergers Supporter Network by a mom about her 16 year old son with autism who complained about her son getting bullied consistently and having trouble making friends. She said that her church was unable to find someone who went through similar things as him. So, I decided to try to help... because aside from the diagnosis, my experiences in OT fieldwork as well as training as an young adult leader at church makes me a pretty good fit in this role. (Of course, I got to be careful that I am actually not providing OT in this instance.)
Sure enough, after my first brief chat session with the teenager, his mother said to me that her son was never that happy getting off the computer for a long time. We had a couple other chat sessions since then and I think I have shed a positive light on him. That to me is meaningful because even if I can't practice OT in the future, I know I can do more than just a subject for autism spectrum research in OT. As a subject, all I can contribute is being a data point. However, by being part of a research team, I think my ability to access these population will tremendously help the evidence-based practice aspect on how OT's assist folks with autism and their caretakers.
I am hoping that I get to have more experiences like this... because the experience not only will help me broaden my understanding of autism, but also building a more compelling case that I should belong in a PhD program in OT/OS... so that I can research about possible ways to for the OT profession to assist adults in the autism spectrum, as well as their caretakers. After all, I just came across an article called The Everyday Occupation of Families with Children with Autism. It is a great article because I think while OT's could be doing a great job helping these children with autism, the family as a whole is also important regardless how long the family has known about the diagnosis. I think by my ability to better reach these families, the OT profession will have better evidence to provide a case that not only the children/teenagers with autism that needs OT, but also perhaps other family members because of the fact that the children/teenagers might have a lot of needs and these needs will usually become top priority over almost everything else. Even with these families accept the fact that the children/teenagers become these families' top priority, taking care of them (no matter the degree of the symptoms) can be an emotionally draining task.
To all the OT's out there who are helping out the population... I am giving you props for what you do. But, I believe that our profession still have a lot to do. Hopefully I can provide some answers on how our profession should proceed so that we not only achieve client-centeredness to this population, but also family-centeredness.