Around six months ago, an email was forwarded to me by our company manager from a client, letting me know that after just over a year with me, they were moving on.
I felt a pang of panic, and a touch of sadness that I’d no longer be connecting with this wonderful woman. A mother of autistic children, a long and complex pathway before her when we first met.
Just weeks before, she had posted in one of our private membership spaces for families raising neurodivergent children that she was feeling overwhelmed and emotional at how far she had come in a year in terms of understanding her children and herself; and in forging peaceful pathways in reconnection with her family.
I wondered what might have happened in the last few weeks to change her mind.
I opened the email and felt into what she was outlining. With a deep sense of gratitude, it was time for her to move on and reenter life, armed with a newfound knowledge and understanding of neurodivergent identity and culture within her family.
And how could I be sad about that? How?
This. This is exactly what I wish for, for all of the individuals and families I have the absolute privilege and honour of working with.
I watch so many of our clients, whether one on one or in our group spaces; start off with their cameras off, unable to speak. Terrified, timid and often traumatised by the very systems set up to support us in nurturing our autistic children.
Many families join our spaces when the society, the foundation they’ve known all their lives has chewed them up and spat them out. The education system, mental health services and organisations, allied health professionals who in their best education and training still don’t know what autism truly is and continue to work from a fix and change, medical disorder model and mentality.
They’re weary, exhausted and rightfully apprehensive that we will be yet another group of folks that will sit around talking about the best therapies and parenting techniques, how evil screen time is, and counting all the ways in which we are failing our children.
And no. We don’t do that.
We huddle. We hold space. We radically accept. We love unconditionally.
Some of the live group sessions I have the honour of facilitating are joyous, and some are utterly devastating.
There are tears. There are trigger warnings. There are stories that challenge us and push us to new levels of that radical acceptance.
We don’t offer one another answers; we simply sit and listen.
Nobody speaks unless invited to. No unsolicited advice. No fixing and changing.
Only absolute respect.
When I set out to build our private offerings, I went in with the mindset that I’d offer something that was not seen anywhere else. I’d be positive and upbeat and we’d ONLY use neuroaffirming language-I’d be strict about that.
Would you be surprised to know that isn’t what happened?
I remember the first time a parent started crying. Shouting, raging, crying. Gulping away pain as it forced it’s way out into the ether. A parent, broken; by the system that she and her family trusted in, to only have it break the spirit and totally undermine the sense of self in her child.
I was stunned. Yet something in me changed. I sat and listened. I felt into her pain.
She knew she was safe with us.
I went away from that session and journalled my heart out..”Oh no, this wasn’t the plan!” I panicked. I wanted people to be happy. I talked to my therapist, who was delighted.
I had so much to learn.
These parents weren't grieving their autistic children being autistic. They were grieving the ways in which their children had been failed and broken.
And I realised, we were in fact offering something unique.
A space for people to be, without judgement and without the need to be fixed or changed.
There is no true way forward but through the tough stuff. The heartache, the pain, the trauma, the guts of it all. The injustice, the brokenness, the disconnection, the disempowerment.
And so now our sessions are just that. We don’t go in with a topic. I scrapped that. I invite our members to share, to ask questions of the group, and we get the beautiful honour of holding space. Just listening.
Not making these humans right or wrong. No approval or disapproval.
Offering up a principled space that allows us all to be.
And so, when my client emailed and told me she was incredibly grateful and was ready to rejoin life with her family and immerse herself less in “autism”; I smiled and nodded.
Good for her.
It wasn’t so much that she was leaving behind “autism”. It’s that we find a space where we learn we are not alone. We are not alone. We are not alone. We are not alone.
We feel less isolated. We stop seeking out solutions from outside of ourselves and we begin to reconnect with that which already exists within. Intuition.
We reconnect with ourselves, our inner knowing. We feel less afraid to trust our children in knowing what they need. We are more inclined to listen to them. We feel less shame, less blame. We begin to feel more empowered. We know it’s okay that your answer isn’t mine.
And our narrative around autism changes.
Many moons ago, I was recovering from addiction in a twelve step recovery group. One of the oldest members of our local area got up one night to speak, and many were surprised by what he said. “The twelve steps are designed to help us reconnect with life. They help us understand ourselves and to process our pain and make sense of it all. The steps are tools so that we can get out there, outside of these meetings and live.” He went on to describe those 12 step members who become so entrenched in the 12 steps with a dogmatic approach that they don’t realise they’re continuing on with yet another addiction and distraction from rejoining life.
It was a breath of fresh air for me.
And so, when our clients leave us because they are ready to rejoin life in a way that lights up their path and their connection with themselves and others..
That is something to truly celebrate. How could we want anything else?
Photo by PNW Production
We hate spam and promise not to do this to you. We will also never share your details with anyone.