From “No” to “Hello”

Coaching for autistics who want deep human connection 

without compromising who you are.

Dear fellow Autie or Aspie,

You’re not the only one. I’ve struggled with social anxiety most of my life. Always the awkward one. The outsider. The loner. And terribly lonely. Because…

People are scary.

Right?

And hard.

Do you ever try to figure out how someone is thinking,
and get yelled at? 
And you’re like, “I’m just trying to understand you!” 
Sigh.

And tiring.

Even when nothing bad happens, just existing around other people is draining.

And mean.

So called “friends” have made fun of you, used you, or ghosted you, and you have no idea what you did wrong.

And no one likes you.

“For evidence I would call Your Honor’s attention to exhibits A through Z, which clearly show people walking out of the Defendant’s life…”

And you'd totally give up on people, except…

You’re really lonely. 
Your furbaby cuddling up beside you is nice,
but the conversations are decidedly one-sided.

To add insult to injury, you’re smart.

You can learn, analyze, synthesize, and produce complex information and skills in lots of other areas.
Just not when it comes to people.

So the logical conclusion must be: it’s you.

Obviously, you’re the problem.
Everyone else, even your little cousins (who, let’s face it, aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed) manage this “people thing” just fine. You’re the one who’s always saying the wrong thing, misunderstanding people, too sensitive.
Right?
Right???

Please allow me a moment on my soapbox to say…

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

Thank you. I needed to get that out of my system.

I totally and 100% get this because it’s exactly who I was for much of my life.

I tried fitting in, then standing out, and performed in order to earn acceptance. When it didn’t work, I tried all of those things harder. I internalized all the criticism I ever received, rehearsed it in my head, and flung it right back in my own face, time and time again. I tried to substitute impressive accomplishments for feeling good about myself. I drove myself to work harder, be better, get everything righter (parallelism: check; irony: check) than everyone else. Until I couldn’t anymore.
I burned out. Collapsed. My body said “no more.”

For which I am eternally grateful. 
Because that forced me to try something different. 
New.
Revolutionary.

Which ultimately transformed my entire life.

Hi, I’m Heather (she/her or they)

I help autistics who avoid people but want good friends and meaningful connections – or just to be able to talk to a stranger without gut-wrenching panic – to untangle their people issues and get more comfortable with themselves and others.

Dream with me for a sec…

Try this. Set aside all of your past experiences for a moment and

imagine what it would be like to:

  • Go to work, or school, and feel okay.
  • Leave the house even when you aren’t required to, without worrying about running into someone who wants to chit chat, if you’ll greet them appropriately, or say the right thing.
  • Never make eye contact again, and no one ever hassles you about it.
  • Go to a job interview without panicking and messing up the words.
  • Attend family functions, gatherings, and events without hiding the whole time.
  • Or stay home without guilt.
  • Go to the grocery store and ask where to find an item, or interact with the checkout person, without feeling like you’re going to puke or pass out.
  • Look forward to holidays and freely choose which events to attend, how to take care of yourself when you choose to go, and leave before you get overwrought.
  • Pick up the phone. And talk.
  • Attend Zoom meetings with the screen on or off, without fretting about what others will think of you.
  • Have deep and meaningful conversations with people you find interesting.
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This isn’t fiction; these things are possible. 

With one caveat: you can’t actually control how other people will react to you. But you can help people to accept you the way you are. It’s not that hard, but it’s not something our society teaches, so it takes learning new strategies.

This is exactly why I created

From “No” to “Hello”

To help you move from a socially anxious outsider,
to being reasonably comfortable around people.

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Not exactly overpromising, am I?

OK, cards on the table, those things we imagined together are possible, but they don’t happen  overnight. Your people issues (discomfort, social anxiety, avoidance, etc.) took years to develop, and aren’t going to disappear in a few weeks.

What can happen, if you’re ready, is to lay the foundations for radically better relationships to grow.

Why common strategies don’t work

Did social skills training actually help? (Or did it reinforce that you’re bad at this?)

What about medication? (Apart from the side effects?) 

Anxiety management techniques? Therapy? Self-help books? Books on reading body language? Power poses? (Yeah, I saw that TED Talk, too.)

Probably some. But if you’re reading this, I’m guessing it wasn’t enough.

You’ve done so much personal growth work, but you still feel uncomfortable, like you don’t belong. Like an outsider looking in. 

Want to know why? There’s a reason. Well, okay, two reasons.

Reason #1:

None of these really “work,” because none of them address the root causes of what’s going on. Therapy comes the closest, but unless your therapist happens to be autistic, they probably won’t be able to help you untangle the parts that aren’t therapy territory.

Anxiety management strategies are useful, and I teach some, too. But without a deeply rooted context, they can only offer limited, temporary relief.

That’s because autistics’ social anxieties aren’t simply invented worries sprung from an overactive imagination. We have a lot of real experiences in our past that tell us we are liable to be left out, hurt, misunderstood, and/or get social cues wrong.

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Reason #2:

Socializing isn’t primarily about social skills. In fact, that’s the smallest factor.

You can recite all the social scripts, know the curriculum by heart, and still be super awkward around people. 

Or be so nervous that you come across as robotic or creepy. Or mess up the script entirely because your tongue doesn’t seem to work when you’re that anxious.

Plus, when you’re uncomfortable, people pick up on that and they feel uncomfortable, and to avoid their own discomfort they don’t stick around long enough to find out how wonderful you really are.

What I do differently

If you really want radically better relationships with people,

you have to do things radically better than you’ve done before. 

That means not just doing the same things you’ve always done, but harder

So skip the social skills training and first lay the foundations of success.

Which means, you have to get at least minimally comfortable around people. 

  • That takes defusing those awful stories in your head that are telling you that you can’t do this. That you’re broken. That you have to conform to everyone else’s expectations in order to have friends, or that you need to control everyone else in order to be safe. That no one likes you. That no one will ever understand you.
  • It requires figuring out how your sensory differences may be interfering with your people time. (Spoiler alert: it’s probably more than you think.)
  • And allowing a new, autistic-friendly communication style to emerge.
  • And you have to make friends with yourself. You have to truly believe, deep down, not just at an intellectual level, that you are already likable, and that starts by liking yourself.
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Don’t worry, I’ll break this down into easy, manageable bits, and sprinkle in some light humor. (If it’s not fun, why bother?)

The good, the bad, and the beautiful

That goodness starts with truly, radically accepting that who you are is already enough.

Because any belief along the lines of, “I’m not ___ enough,“ “I’m broken,“ “I’m too much,“ or “I don’t deserve friends or relationships or connection,” are just wrong

You were born on this earth the way you are and that means you deserve to be on this earth the way you are.

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If you don’t believe that, you’ve been sold a crap-load of lies:

  • About what friendships and other relationships are and how to get them. Most stuff that is taught is people-pleasing, degrading, manipulative, or unhelpful.
  • That autistics can’t be “social.” That you have to be taught how to be “normal.” That you are deficient. NOOOOO!
  • That you have to look, act, move, or talk a certain way for other people to like you. Nope…you don’t.
  • That having a lot of friends is a benchmark of success in life…and having few friends is your personal failing. It’s not. Neither is.
  • That having something in common is enough, and that once you find someone like that, you should get along splendidly. Spoiler alert…it isn’t.
  • That you will feel better after other people love you. Sorry, but no. To feel better, you have to love yourself first.

This is what no amount of social skills training can ever give you. Confidence that’s not based on rote learning, but a deep internal truth. Your internal world and external world working together, not fighting each other.

How this produces results

When you truly accept yourself, and are operating from a place of deep internal truth, your stress level will lower, allowing your mannerisms to naturally relax, your tone of voice will soften, you will start to get a handle on what you (really) need, which means you will make better choices about what is (really) good for you, you will set better boundaries for yourself and honor other peoples’ boundaries in turn, and — as counterintuitive as this might seem — people are attracted to all of that.

As you get more comfortable with yourself, you will be more comfortable when you’re around others, and they will pick up on that and be more comfortable with you, which means you will have more positive experiences with people. 

As your nervous system begins to associate people with feeling OK, your anxieties will gradually release, and you will be able to engage more with people, which will go better, so you’ll be more willing to try again, and…this will create an upward spiraling cycle of success.

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That’s when you’ll be much more likely to find people who are (really) good for you and who can love you for who you are, and who you will also find interesting and want to invest your time and effort into as well (it’s a two way street).

It won’t be everyone, but you don’t really want to hang out with everyone, do you? All you need are a few good people in your life, and those you can find.

It happened for me. I help that happen for my clients. It can happen for you, too. Are you ready?

“Time Out, Coach!"​

Let’s pause for a moment.

This all sounds nice, and yet…

is there a part of you that wants to run the other way? Close the browser window, yell at the screen that I’m full of baloney, that this can’t be true for you?

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I’m going to ask a tough question here, and I’d like you to take a deep breath and see if there may be some truth in it.

Maybe, deep down, is a part of you afraid that if you do make friends, your life will spin out of control and you won’t be able to handle it?

Or that you’ll be expected to suddenly become a social butterfly, and that’s just not you?

So maybe, is there a little, teeny tiny, eensey weensey bit of self sabotage going on? Sometimes?

I’ve done that, too. Plenty. So I won’t shame you, or push you to do more than you can handle, or want.

And part of what we’ll be working on is how to set up healthy boundaries that ensure you never have to be more social than you genuinely want.

Feeling a bit better? 

Time in…

My Philosophy

As Albert Einstein said,

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

In other words, radically different results require a radically different approach.

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When I got my autism diagnosis (at age 35) and started trying to figure this stuff out, I scoured the Internet, researched standard “treatment” options, and searched high and low for anything that would help. I was quickly frustrated that most autism services were only available to kids, but later learned that most of that was crap anyway. So, blessing in disguise.

That forced me to look for unorthodox solutions. And confront a lot of my own assumptions, internalized ableism, and prejudice against using my emotions or body signals as any sort of useful information.

These paradigm shifts sparked a new special interest: understanding the psychology-biology-neuroscience of what worked for me, and why. 

It also let me let go of the crap we learn in society about “letting things go” (ironic, right?), and other inane precepts.

So, I won’t try to logic you out of your anxieties, explain why they don’t make sense, or tell you to “get over it.” I also won’t try exposure techniques, compulsion, accountability to arbitrary goals, or anything that you let me know is personally triggering.

That means: I don’t take an ordinary approach. It’s mind-body-emotions integrative. I talk about the nervous system a lot. It’s customized for how our autistic and neurowonderful mindbodies work and perceive the world, and tailored to your unique mindbody.

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My personal approach is heavily influenced by:

  • Martha Beck’s Wayfinder Life Coaching
  • Dr. Stuart Shanker’s Self-Reg framework 
  • Dr. Stephen Porges’ Polyvagal Theory
  • The Work of Byron Katie

I also incorporate principles from: sensory integration, interoception, embodiment, mindfulness, Steven Hayes’ Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), The Empowerment Dynamic of David Emerald, The Four Agreements of Don Miguel Ruiz, Alfie Kohn’s work on intrinsic motivation, Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication, the Emotional Freedom Technique (tapping), and more.

A complete mind-body-emotions fusion that’s based on what has worked for me and my clients.

Most importantly, I don’t want your compliance.

I want to empower you to create your own best life.

What’s involved?

I don’t make one-size-fits-all programs – that doesn’t work for T-shirts, so why would it work for your unique personhood?

I’ll adapt everything to what you need, want, and find helpful.

I guide, offer, invite, but never demand or “make” you do anything.

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  • I bring calm, compassion, and a non-judgmental space to allow you to explore new experiences safely. 
  • I listen and honor your knowledge and experience.
  • I uplift, seeing the potential in you even when you don’t.
  • I’ll challenge you, kindly, to leave the B.S. behind so you actually get the results you want.
  • I keep things simple, because simple is so much easier. In fact, you’ll find that your life gets a lot easier as we work together.

From “No” to “Hello”

Depending on your needs and desires, we’ll work toward any combination of the following:

  • Figure out your current social patterns, and where they came from.
  • Identify your current beliefs around social expectations, norms, yourself, and others that are holding you back.
  • Dissolve the negative self-talk that says, “I’m not ____ enough.”
  • Explore how your sensory system may have influenced your time with people.
  • Enhance your internal awareness, so you can tell when you’re getting overwhelmed before it gets to meltdown or shutdown levels.
  • Develop emotional freedom so feelings become less overwhelming.
  • Learn new ways to communicate your needs, intentions, and boundaries in ways that work for your directness and that get through to non-autistics. For example, how to get around the eye contact thing.
  • Explore what your boundaries are, or need to be, for the social or work life you want to have.
  • Start to engage in small, safe ways.
  • Learn to move acquaintances or casual friends to closer, more meaningful friendships.

To get these results, you have to do the internal work of exploring yourself. But you won’t be alone. I’ll support you the whole way.

Are you ready?

Let’s start small. I offer a starter package, without a big commitment. If you like the results you’re getting, it’s super easy to continue.

Coaching Package

You get:

  • 6 sessions  scheduled for 60 mins, but we’ll finish when you feel done, which may be a few minutes more or less.
  • Personal intentions and reflections questionnaire before we begin.
  • Email and Voxer support between sessions.

All sessions are via Zoom, so it doesn’t matter where in the world you are.

Plan to meet weekly or every other week.

For the “teen and parents” version of this package, click here.

Pricing

  • Option #1: Pay in full, $460

    Save 10% off individual sessions.

  • Option #2: Pay What You Can*

    We can agree on this together.

*About PWYC: This is an expression of my desire for justice and accessibility. I’ve relied on others being flexible with their pricing when I was un-/underemployed, and am thrilled that I can now pay it forward.

Individual
Sessions

You get:

  • 1 session, to work through a specific issue or an aspect of an issue  scheduled for 60 mins, but we’ll finish when you feel done, which may be a few minutes more or less.

All sessions are via Zoom, so it doesn’t matter where in the world you are.

Pricing

**About PWYC: This is an expression of my desire for justice and accessibility. I’ve relied on others being flexible with their pricing when I was un-/underemployed, and am thrilled that I can now pay it forward.

Think this might be for you?

Want to meet first? You can see if you feel comfortable with me 
and ask any questions you have about working together.

Schedule your free Clarity Session.

Or, if you’d prefer to start with an email…

Safe and Sound Upgrade

An optional upgrade.

Get even more out of your work with me by regulating your nervous system at a biological level.

The SSP is specialized music that has been proven to:

  • reduce anxiety and depression
  • improve sensory integration
  • improve social engagement
  • improve sleep, focus, digestion, and more.

This can be great,
but it's not for everyone

This may be for you if...

This may not be a great fit if...

FAQs

Nope, of course not. It will get you started. People issues take years to develop, and won’t simply dissipate in a few weeks. But that doesn’t mean they have to take years to go away, either. A few sessions with me should be enough for you to tell if you want to continue.

You probably won’t go out clubbing or cheerfully chit-chat with strangers. It’s too soon for that. Waaay too soon. You’ll probably feel more openness inside, making it easier to get through the day and face the ordinary things you have to do with people. And you probably will begin to imagine that things could get even better.

Again, I can’t, and won’t try, to “make” you do anything. You are in charge of yourself. 

And to answer your question, no. I’ll give you a gentle nudge here and there, but I’m not going to push you into something you’re not ready for. That would be mean and counterproductive. The idea is for you to get comfortable with people, and that will only work when you have positive experiences with people, including me, and that will only happen when you’re nudging the boundaries of your comfort zone, not flung out of them.

Fortunately, this isn’t therapy, and I am not a trained therapist. We may gently, briefly, touch on some old wounds, because pretending that anxieties exist without a cause won’t give you the results you’re looking for. But we won’t linger there or unpack all of the parts of it the way a good therapist would. (By the way, it can be very helpful during this process to work with a therapist who is a good fit for you.)

What we will do together is something closer to recognizing that, for example, a girl made fun of you when you were five and that was painful, and you told yourself that she made fun of you because you weren’t OK the way you were, and that painful thought became deeply rooted. We’ll look at that thought and how it affected you, not so much the original experience.

If you’re seriously debating doing this, that tells me you are seriously interested, but it still might be scary. Here’s the thing. There are two kinds of scary: panic-scary and exciting-scary. 

If you think about doing this and your gut clenches or your chest tightens and your shoulders, jaw, hands, or toes clench up and it gets hard to breathe, that’s panic-scary, and that’s your body telling you that this is not the right choice for you, or not the right time.

But if you think about doing this and your gut gets fluttery and your heart starts racing and you’re starting to think about things that you could do if this were to work, you’re probably experiencing exciting-scary. That’s the kind where taking the leap will probably work out well.

If you have tried everything (else), that tells me that you really, really want positive people connection in your life. It also tells me that those other things didn’t really get to the root of what’s been holding you back, which is the focus of my work.

Trying to work toward goals without removing the barriers that get in their way is like trying to push a car up a hill with the brakes on. It’s so much easier to take off the brakes, turn on the car, and drive up.

Getting comfortable with yourself is the first step to any genuine human connection, including romantic ones. But dating and relationships is a whole can of worms that I don’t have much experience with, and there are some really great coaches out there who can help you with that. 

AND the best of them will also tell you that you need to figure out your own crap before glomming onto someone else’s. Not only does it get your crap out of the way, so there will be less between the two of you, but it teaches you how to deal with crap, which is critical in relationships.

Sure. I also offer “open” sessions, in which we can work together towards other life goals.

This is also great for:

  • autism parents who would like an autistic adult’s perspective, 
  • Highly Sensitive People who want to craft a life that is gentle to their sensory system, or
  • professionals who’d like a consultation.


Click here for more info.