Most of the time, after an autism diagnosis, the parents can feel like their whole future perspective has changed; dreams are shattered and hope has been dashed (looking at it through ‘autism glasses’). In this episode of ASD, A New Perspective, Dr. Sheely and Kat Lee discuss how it doesn’t have to be that way!
Kat Lee: You know, I don’t know, I think sometimes when an autism diagnosis comes in, there’s a veil that falls over. All of a sudden, and I mean this for being the aide in the classroom, the parent, the teacher, a veil can fall. That’s not allowing those dreams to be seen. Everybody wants the best possible outcome, but the veil, you remember how people say you’re seeing things through autism glasses?
Dr. Rachelle Sheely: I do.
Kat Lee: I almost think it’s like a autism vail, because it’s so covering.
Dr. Rachelle Sheely: Yeah, it is, and it’s such a good way to put it Katherine. Those glasses distort, so rather than becoming focused, and moving forward, they distort. We end up saying, “This is where we can see success immediately.” We focus in on those things, because we don’t know what else to look at. You know, thinking about 21, is not an easy thing to do, because it’s a trajectory that has small steps and incremental steps. The paths go in divergent ways, and they come back again.
Kat Lee: Well, and people are individuals, so we think about 21, we may at 3, not be seeing the person for who they are yet. Just like me and my moms friends, maybe it’ll be this, maybe it’ll be that. It’s the idea of having that future.
Dr. Rachelle Sheely: Yeah, one of the things that parents will often say to me is, “I just wonder if he’ll have a job, I wonder if he’ll get married.” Going back to your timeline, I just got an email from a kid that I saw years ago. I’m thinking he’s 34, or 35 now. He said, “I’m coming to Houston, I want you to meet my fiance.”
Kat Lee: Oh, how sweet.
Dr. Rachelle Sheely: Yes, and I love that, because 34 and 35 is getting a little bit outside of that area where, I mean a lot of people get married at that age, but usually are a little bit younger. He’s been dating people and it hasn’t worked out, and one thing or another. He’s popped the question and she said, “Yes.” She’s got a ring, and he’s bringing her in for an introduction. It goes back to that timeline, it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter the age as long as the feet are going in the right direction.
Kat Lee: I think one of the really neat things we’ve talked about today, is that thee awareness, the lack of the autism glasses needs to go over many different people, not just parents, but aides in schools, and other professionals, to get those glasses off honestly.
Dr. Rachelle Sheely: Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah. To get them off, and by taking those glasses off, we see people as people. We say, you know, I don’t know what your goal for yourself is, but we’re going to help you figure that out. We’re going to help you get there. We’re not putting limitations on it. We’re not saying that the only thing that you can do is memorize something and repeat it. We’re saying that you can actually have a job, you can get married, you can have friendships.
Kat Lee: That is moving forward, passed a spelling test.
Dr. Rachelle Sheely: It’s passed a spelling test, and also I was never very good at spelling. That’s why I chose spelling.
Kat Lee: I am so interested in how you, as a professional, help yourself to not put those glasses on.
Dr. Rachelle Sheely: I think it would be hard to put them on now Katherine, it’s been quite a few years now, where I haven’t worn those glasses. I’ve stayed focused. Once you take them off, and once you see the possibility, and once you see the growth, and you see the trajectory that’s going in the right direction, it’s actually hard to put them back on.
Kat Lee: That’s exciting to think about, that you can just take those glasses, and you don’t even have to put them in the drawer, you can throw them away.
Dr. Rachelle Sheely: Well let me ask you about yourself, because you’ve been an RDI consultant for a number of years. Do you feel like you’ll get drawn into putting them back on?
Kat Lee: I feel like I see the children very individually, like I see typically developing children individually. I just see them with vulnerabilities that those children may not have, but those children will also have vulnerabilities in their life. I feel like that’s maintained for the most part. Of course, like you, I see children that have not been exposed to things that will help them with their vulnerabilities. The real deep vulnerabilities, like you saying not these other academic things, but they haven’t had those. When you see it, a child in that situation, sometimes it feels like you see, I don’t know how else to put it, autism like right in front of your face.
Dr. Rachelle Sheely: Yeah.
Kat Lee: I think if you looked around all the well-meaning people around them, you’d see those glasses.
Dr. Rachelle Sheely: Right.
Kat Lee: On everybody unfortunately, did that make sense?
Dr. Rachelle Sheely: Yes, it does, and so you have to ask yourself, what am I looking at? Am I looking at a person or am I looking at autism? If you’re looking at autism, you need to look a little bit more carefully and more deeply at the person. Because then your focus is going to be where it needs to be.