Autism Traits and Hypnotherapy
For many people on the Autism Spectrum, everyday life can be a challenge. The frustration they feel at being misunderstood often leads to meltdown which causes them a great deal of stress and anxiety. For those with a diagnosis of Classic Autism - which is normally accompanied with a learning disability - they may have difficulty communicating their needs and desires, and this frustration will either manifest itself in what appears to be unmanageable behaviour (often called ‘meltdowns’) or they may retreat into their own world. They may use echolalia, repeating what is said to them in the hope that they are communicating effectively, or they may point, or use PECS (picture exchange communication system) to get their message across.
Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) comes under the autism spectrum umbrella, but does not go hand in hand with a learning disability as many assume. AS is a ‘Socialisation and Communication’ difficulty which can be debilitating in that sufferers are often misunderstood. ‘How can he be so intelligent but talk incessantly about dinosaurs?’ Or ‘Why is he standing looking bewildered when asked to choose between two sandwiches?’ AS or ‘Aspies’ often suffer from enormous pressure to ‘fit in’ with society. This can manifest into depression with as many as a third regularly suffering from it. Another third will experience repeatedly from ‘episodic sadness’ as they are aware of their social faux pas.
They are often ostracised in their communities and even within their own families at times and seen as ‘weird’ or ‘quirky’ never quite understanding the social cues and this often leads to isolation. At times even their own parents will ‘assume’ they want to stay shut off in their rooms and don’t encourage them to participate in family gatherings and activities. Playmates/teachers/colleagues ‘assume’ they want to sit alone or do not want to join in so never actually invite them to. They do want to but just don’t know how or have given up, embarrassed that they make a fool of themselves or say the wrong thing.
Imagine how it feels when you go for an important job interview You feel nervous, you go over the potential conversation in your head before you even get there, you imagine everything that might go wrong. What if you trip going in the door? - What if they want to shake your hand and will realise it’s all sweaty? - What if you misunderstand their questions and say something really stupid? – Worse still, what if your mind goes completely blank and you say nothing? I assume you are getting the picture. Now, imagine feeling like that every time you want to interact with anyone, every day in every situation from talking to your classmates about what you did last night or going into a shop to ask for a pint of milk. Can you imagine your stress levels remaining that high for so long?
That is why an Aspie often refuses to interact in the first place as they know the consequences of trying time and time again. They need time to unwind and that is why they will go into their room to be alone or they may ‘stim’. ‘Stimming’ is an action they do to calm themselves down when they feel anxious or even do when they just want to stimulate their senses. It comes in many shapes and forms from hand flapping, finger flicking, rocking, humming, facial tics etc. It is more common in Classic Autism as Aspies tend to learn to control the urge as they realise it is not always socially acceptable. Think of times when you are nervous or agitated, you may tap your foot or fingers on the desk or cough nervously or chew your fingernails.
Some people on the Autism Spectrum (especially in the US) take medication to alleviate their stress and anxiety, however this only masks the issue and does not address the underlying causes of the presenting problem. The effects of long term usage are also unknown in this client group. Hypnotherapy is a safe, natural alternative in helping Aspies overcome many of the challenges they face on a daily basis. Teaching them relaxation techniques through self-hypnosis can allow them to feel more in control of their lives and increases their self-esteem and confidence. Bypassing the conscious mind allows the therapist to reason with their overworked conscious thoughts allowing them to reassemble and slow down. The Aspie often suffers from sensory overload which can greatly impact on their wellbeing, therefore teaching them how to manage their thoughts and emotions and learn to worry less will greatly reduce their anxiety levels.
At a recent Autism Conference a prominent psychologist in Autism stated that there are good therapists out there and there are people with in depth autism knowledge. However, it is important they have both skills to ensure the best possible outcome for the individual.
About the author
Biodun Ogunyemi, founder of Optimind, one of the leading practices in the UK. Trained to the highest level in Advanced Hypnotherapy and author of over 180 hypnosis products.
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Tara Guthrie-Knight BA(hons), DHP HPD MNCH(Lic)AFSFHMay 16th, 2017