Have you recently figured out, or are you again grappling with, what it means to be Autistic? Or AuDHD, neurodivergent, or highly sensitive?
(Formal diagnosis, self-identification, and questioning are all valid.)
Do you want to find new ways to live and work
that don’t compromise who you are?
Of course not.
You’re not asking for the Moon. You simply want get things done and have kind friends and feel good about yourself.
That is the minimum basic that is due every person on this Earth, and that has been denied to you because our society treats everyone as if they should want the same things, get them in the same way, and feel the same about it all.
They think that if you don’t, there’s something wrong with you.
I think you have something amazing inside precisely because you operate differently, experience things differently, and yes, because you’ve been through a lot of crap.
I think you can have access to your amazing gifts, insight, and powers only when you let go of the B.S. that has been foisted on you by society your whole life, and let your thoughts, creativity, and imagination free.
I think this isn’t a pipe dream. I know this is real.
I’m living it.
Let me guess, you’ve tried anxiety management techniques, medication, therapy, self-help books, and you’ve done a lot of personal growth work, and bits and pieces of that have been positive, but you still feel uncomfortable. Like you don’t belong. Like an outsider looking in.
And no one gets that except other Autistics/AuDHDers/HSPs/introverts online, but their rants (and yours) aren’t actually making anything better.
Those things, by the way, often don’t work because they are steeped in the same cultural assumptions about what is “right” or “normal” that got you to the point where you needed their help.
Society hasn’t been teaching you how to make the best possible life for yourself.
In fact, I’ll bet the people around you spent a lot of time and effort trying to teach you to fit in.
“Don’t rock the boat,” they said. “Get with the program.” “Go with the flow.” “The nail that sticks out gets hammered.” And other gems designed to teach you to conform so that you weren’t a “problem” (for them).
When you did a school assignment in a different way than the teacher expected, did you get in trouble for it, even though you got the right answers?
When you had a hard time leaving the house and your adults hurried you out the door anyway, did you learn not to bother complaining, arguing, or speaking up for yourself?
When you were overly stressed and it came out as anger or a meltdown, were you were treated as the problem, the fragile one, or the one everyone walked on eggshells around?
Were you so scared of upsetting people around you that you did whatever they said, no matter the personal cost?
And when you did something the way they expected, did they say “good job,” or “well done,” or “I’m so proud of you”?
Or, “now that wasn’t so hard, was it?!” when the answer is that yes, it was really hard.
Or did they ignore it, but at least they left you alone?
Did you work hard for their approval and feel good (less awful) when you got it? And try even harder to be “good” and do things “right”?
There’s nothing wrong with that; it’s how we’re wired as humans. And that wiring has consequences.
Let me guess. In all these small and big moments, you got the message that what you needed wasn’t relevant, wasn’t appropriate, or was a problem.
That asking wouldn’t do any good anyway.
That what you needed wasn’t worth taking the time or effort to understand, let alone accommodate.
Have others ignored your needs for so long that you’ve stopped noticing them too?
I believe that deep down inside you know what you need and what works for you, but that you have been taught to ignore, disregard, and discredit your instincts as part of fitting into a society that does not fit you well.
In those moments, ‘different’ felt bad. And when you faked it, pretended, put on a mask—acted like other people did—then they didn’t treat you differently, and that felt safe.
Has it gotten to the point that masking now feels even worse than being different?
Do you want to stop faking who you are?
Now here’s the hard question:
Have you been masking for so long
that it’s hard to tell what’s you and what’s the mask?
Here’s the thing. A functional Autistic life doesn’t come from imitating a neurotypical life.
And when that doesn’t work, the solution isn’t masking harder, popping pills, or avoidance. I’m not knocking these; they can help short term, but they don’t change the underlying dynamics, so you keep needing them, or keep searching for something else.
My approach assumes that there is always a reason why we do/don’t do something.
That trying to change our behaviors — the mentality of “I just need to do it,” “power through,” “get over myself and get it done,” etc. — without understanding why that’s so freaking hard, either doesn’t work at all, or doesn’t work long term, and often leads to burnout.
Excavating and working with these underlying reasons can make a much bigger impact than only focusing on making plans and learning skills, because our core beliefs, fears, and the things that we think about ourselves get in the way of implementing even the best of plans.
For example, if you keep thinking, “I’m stupid” or “what’s the point; I can’t manage,” or “nothing works for me,” you’ll resist your plan, feel stuck, and may not even be aware of why.
So…I prefer to figure out the underlying reasons why we’re doing, or not doing, the things we’re struggling with.
Then, practical strategies and techniques work soooo much better. And it’s much easier to find the ones that actually work best for you. And those plans turn into reality!
When you come to a session with me, you can bring a particular issue that you’re struggling with, or I can help you narrow down a topic to work through.
From there I’ll invite you to tell me more about it, ask powerful questions, and listen to understand the connections your mind has been making, to figure out what’s been hurting you and holding you back.
That often includes lessons you learned growing up, beliefs you formed because of the experiences you’ve been through, and painful thoughts about yourself and the world.
When I have a theory about what’s subconsciously affecting you, I’ll present that and invite you to tell me where I’m wrong. We’ll refine it together until you feel that spark of, “Yeah, that’s right! That’s it!”
Depending on what it is, and what you’re comfortable with, we can work with it to dissolve, or resolve, or free it, and I have a variety of techniques to do that.
We might gently and compassionately question a painful thought to find which parts of it are true and which are social conditioning, or talk to a part of yourself that is trying to protect you from a situation that doesn’t exist anymore, or others.
As you unlearn each ableist belief, each bit of conditioning from your family, teachers, society, etc., new options will emerge for addressing your original issue, freeing up energy and mental processing that had been stuck.
Often this creates ripples that will spread throughout your life to help in other areas as well.
After freeing up that stuck point, we often come back very naturally to your original question, and the way forward often feels more clear to you.
At this point, practical strategies and techniques become more effective and easier to implement, and your brain will be more creative in coming up with good ideas.
With your permission, I may share some techniques or strategies, or help you develop your own, or adapt them to your own personality, needs, and circumstances.
This is the process of making your whole life better, one little bit at a time.
Here’s a sampling of what my actual clients came to me for help with.
And yes, they got real results they were happy with.
(As evidenced by the testimonials on this page.)
“Letting go of ableist expectations, finding strategies and resources to get through the day, and in general managing life with too much on my plate.”
“Figure out what my needs are and how to express them, self forgiveness, reframing life, selling my book.”
“Figuring out who I am, strategies for better communication in my marriage, reducing parenting overwhelm, navigating conflicting needs with my partner and kids.”
“I have had issues understanding my own identity and what I really want out of situations and of life. I am looking for validation and advice.”
“Living authentically, finding freedom, letting go of “normal” expectations.”
“Explore my sensory experiences, communication, and processing issues, better understand myself and autism, find daily stressors to prevent meltdowns and save energy.”
“How to support my Autistic kid, and how to think about and approach problems so that everybody gets what they need.”
“Dismantling neurotypical and capitalist expectations, making work sustainable.”
“Finding strategies to keep clean and fed, understanding PDA better, exploring gender identity.”
“Decide if I want to adjust and stay in my field (but find a new job) or leave and do something else. Cope with the changes either will bring.”
“Figuring out how to change my career so I’m not so drained, even though I’m good at what I do.”
“Build a new foundation for life, work through the hole left by leaving religion, build an autism positive life.”
“Figure out what is trauma and what is autism, unpack social dynamics, figure out friendships.”
“Unmasking, preventing an impending burnout, figure out how to get paid for my skills before my savings runs out.”
“I have been told I am causing a toxic work environment but truly don’t understand how. I need help understanding and learning how to avoid this in the future.”
“Recovery from autistic burnout, unmasking, help doing well in human activities with humans.”
Okay, if it were me eight years ago reading this, my cynical part would be making sarcastic comments about how that isn’t realistic. It let in hope before and was burned.
Now, I’ve been through enough of this Journey to understand that that cynicism is trying hard to protect me from getting hurt again.
Or maybe you feel like there aren’t any better options because you’re so used to the way things are that it’s hard to imagine it being different.
And everything everyone suggests seems impossible or unreasonable or doomed to failure.
But what if you had a non-judgmental and creative space to explore why those things didn’t work?
With someone who won’t tease you about the things that bother you, or complain about the way you think, or laugh at how you solve problems? What would change then?
Could you come up with new ideas? Could you brainstorm new options better?
I believe that you have the answers deep inside. I help by asking powerful questions.
I know how to figure this out, but I don’t know your life. We’ll do this together, so you don’t have to feel lost and alone in the deep dark woods, confused and struggling to find the right path.
And I’ll help you clear away the doubts, fears, and worries about the changes you want to make, and help you find practical strategies to deal with the very real challenges involved.
So you can blaze your own trail to a better life.
This better life is the product of a lot of small steps that build up over time.
Wherever you are in your own personal journey, is perfect. You don’t need to be further along than you are right now, no matter how old you are or what other people might think. Your journey is yours, not anyone else’s.
Is coaching with Heather the next step for you?
*I’ve been super picky about what training, courses, and education I subject myself to, since so much is built on models that are part of old systems I want to move away from.
I offer, invite, and guide, but never demand or “make” you do anything.
I’ll do my best to respond to what you need, want, and find helpful.
What is coaching?
Coaching is a way to have a conversation with someone who has the skills and the ability to draw out from you what works for you. What’s getting in your way? Why are you not doing the things that you say that you want to do, that you genuinely do want to do but are having resistance to? There’s stress around it, or you are trying to and you just can’t make it happen.
Or why are you struggling with certain things that you’re doing? You don’t want to do them, but you can’t stop yourself. You can’t get away from it.
It can be a way to figure out what it is that you really want in life. How do you make things better for yourself? Not doing it the way that works for someone else, but the way that works for you specifically.
What can we work on in coaching?
So you can come to a coaching session with something in mind that you want to figure out. It might be, “This thing happened recently and I had this really big reaction to it. Intellectually I know that it was out of proportion, but I don’t know why and I want to figure out what happened there.” Or maybe there’s something stressful coming up and you want to work with it in different ways than you have in the past.
Maybe there’s something in your life that you just want to make better communication with. A partner or at work, or how to figure out what’s you and what’s the mask. What kind of accommodations could you request that would actually be useful and how you can have that conversation that you’re dreading, and can’t get yourself to actually have, to actually request for accommodations.
It could be any number of things. Those are common ones, but whatever it is that in your life you’re trying to make better. So we can work through that. If you’re not exactly sure what specifically you want to work on in a particular session, I can help you narrow it down. It’s usually pretty easy to find something juicy.
What can I expect in a coaching session?
So how I do sessions, usually you’ll start by bringing whatever issue it is that you want to work through that day, or we figure it out together, and then I’ll start by inviting you to tell me more about it.
What’s going on? What are the thoughts that come up? Maybe what kind of body reactions or physical sensations you notice when you’re talking about this? What emotions come up? If those things are difficult for you, I can help you figure them out. If they’re triggering, we don’t have to go there. But I’ll try to ask questions, ask powerful questions that will help you get to the things that are happening underneath the surface, not just the things that are happening, but why it’s happening. Why are you acting this way when she says that or why when they say the other thing you have a meltdown? Why is this overwhelming? Why do you shut down in this situation? Whatever it is that’s going on.
If you go off on tangents, that’s totally fine. I actually find that really useful, even though people apologize for it all the time. You don’t need to. Your mind made a connection to this thing, or that thing, or the other thing, and I see my job as trying to figure out what those connections are, “Why did this make sense to your brain? Why did that make sense? Why did this come up in your mind and put all the different pieces together?” And when I have a hypothesis about what’s going on underneath the surface, I’ll present that to you and invite you to tell me where I’m wrong. I don’t need to be right all the time, and you know your life better than I do.
So we’ll start with that and refine it together until it feels to you like “Yeah, that’s it! That’s what’s really happening here.” And then, depending on what that is, we can work with it in a variety of different ways. I have lots of different strategies and tools, and we might be able to dissolve it, question it, resolve it or free it up in some way. It might involve a more thought-based questioning of the painful thought that’s underneath there. It might be like talking to your younger self, if you’re open to that. There could be a variety of different things that we could do with it.
When it feels like it’s getting resolved, like it’s getting freed up, then so many things change at that point. Often your body will feel open or lighter, physically. Your brain starts working in new ways and new options become available. As we work through this, it frees up a lot of energy and your prefrontal cortex starts turning on all the way again. The right hemisphere of your brain, that’s creative and problem solving in outside of the box ways, starts being able to use all of its resources again.
Often what happens is the way forward will seem a lot more obvious to you. It will very naturally come back to that original situation that you started with, and you’ll know what you want to do about it. At that point, the practical stuff, the strategies and tools can become useful, and we can get into that and make plans for it. Make ideas, strategize, refine it, and those are the plans that actually turn out to work. You’ll actually do those kinds of plans now that the underlying situation isn’t getting in your way anymore.
What’s the difference between coaching and therapy?
So the difference between therapy and coaching, at least the way I do it:
I find it useful to acknowledge that there are reasons why we’re doing the things that we’re doing, why we’re repeating certain patterns over and over even though we know they’re not helpful, or why we’re resisting certain things, even though we know it would be helpful. The areas where we get stuck in our life, things that we can’t figure out what’s going on there. There’s a reason for all of that. I find it useful to figure out where that’s coming from. It might be that this thing happened when you were six, for example, and it’s still affecting you in certain ways that may not be super obvious.
Whereas therapy is going to go into that situation and be like, “Okay, this thing happened when you were six. Let’s get in there, unpack that, and heal the experience itself.” What I’ll do is to acknowledge, “Hey, that thing happened when you were six. Here’s the lesson that you learned from that or here’s the belief that you took away and that belief is still affecting you. Let’s play with that belief, that lesson that you’ve learned from it.” I want to play with that lesson.
Are you going to tell me what to do?
I’m not going to tell you what to do, tell you what I think you should do, or what I would do in your place, because I’m not in your place. You know your life and the situation better than anyone else, and you’re the one who will be living with it. What I can do is to help you figure out for yourself what you actually want and what you need, not what other people tell you you should want, or what should work or what would be a good idea. It doesn’t matter. Any of that doesn’t matter. What matters is what actually matters to you, and I can help you with that. I can help you figure out how to make decisions, how to listen to yourself and trust yourself. When you do, you will make the best decision.
How often do we meet?
Most people find that working with me on a regular basis is really helpful, especially at the beginning to gain some momentum. About every two to three weeks works well for most people. Some people want to work weekly, but to be honest, that can get kind of intense. Some people want to just do it once a month or once in a while when they have something particular to work through. And that’s totally fine. That works especially well after we’ve been working for a while, and you’re getting familiar with the process, and have been incorporating that into your life more often, and just need some help working through the especially sticky stuff.
Is it okay if I stim?
When we’re working together on Zoom, you are very welcome to stim, fidget, tic, doodle, take notes, eat or drink, and look away from the camera. I don’t mind any of that. Do what you need to do to feel good in your body and in your mind. You’ll notice that I often have a fidget toy or a stim with me, and I always have a weighted blanket on my lap. That helps my body relax. And if the zoom thing doesn’t work for you, we can do it just over the phone. That works fine too.
You probably won’t completely unmask, be all done with burnout, or cheerfully chit-chat with strangers. It’s too soon for that. Waaay too soon.
You’ll probably will feel more openness inside, making it easier to get through the day and face the ordinary things you have to do. And you’ll probably begin to imagine that things could get even better.
When you’re trying to make a decision, I can help you process your thoughts, feelings, and reactions, and stimulate self-reflection. I have tools and techniques that can help you deal with the anxiety of uncertainty, or of what might happen, and try other ways to make decisions. I’ll ask questions that help you consider options in a new way, or generate new options.
But I won’t decide for you. And I won’t push you into a decision.
Because what I think would be best may not be what would work best for you. My perspective is not your perspective. And you’re the one who is going to have to live with the decision. So I won’t tell you what to do or decide for you.
I fundamentally believe that you know what is best for you, even if you don’t have access to that information right now. What I help you do is access and use that information well.
Ummm…I don’t like goals. (Well, sort of.)
I don’t engage in the kind of goal setting and accountability that further the coercive systems and mentality of our society that I want to break away from.
If you have goals that you would like to work on, I can help support you do to do that, but I’m not going to create them for you and I’m not going to get on your case about why you didn’t do it or why you chose to do something else.
But a lot of what I do is exploring with you, as an equal partner, the things in your life that you’re trying to make better. To look really deeply at what’s getting in the way of what you want—what about the current situation is not working for you—without comparison or judgment.
Again, I can’t, and won’t try to, “make” you do anything. You are in charge of yourself.
And to answer your question, it depends on what you want.
For many of my clients, “homework,” or “assignments” tend to create more stress than positive outcomes.
If you’re reflective between sessions, and feel inspired to something personal-growth-ish, that’s great. If you don’t, that’s great, too. Sometimes not doing is exactly what you need.
Part of our work together is in dismantling the oppressive “shoulds” that we’ve been conditioned to believe are the only way to get anywhere in life (but have they been working for you so far?).
You know deep down what works for you and what doesn’t, and it’s my job to help you get in touch with your own inner wisdom and trust yourself.
To put that another way, I’m not in charge of you; I’m here to support you as you direct your own progress.
For some of my clients, they thrive on having some structure or goals in between sessions so it doesn’t turn into an hour of growth that falls into a memory void.
If we get to the the end of a session and you want something practical that will naturally continue the progress we have made together, I can offer a suggestion and we can tweak it together so it is what you want to do and feels do-able on your terms.
The one-size-fits-all-model doesn’t even work for t-shirts, never mind the complexities of human—especially neurodivergent—experience. And many of us have other intersecting, marginalized identities that inform what we need.
Even if we started by planning out everything in advance, tailored for you, you would discover new things about yourself each time, so the original plan would quickly become irrelevant and create stress.
So everything is customized to you. There is enough predictability in how sessions work to reduce stress, and you get to choose the topics (I can help if you want), but our sessions will evolve naturally from one to the next.
I care deeply about consent, partnership, and empowering your personal sovereignty.
I won’t always know that a topic will be tender, so when I do misstep, I hope you will be able to say something like, “I don’t want to go there,” and I will say “Okay, thank you for telling me that,” and move on, no questions asked.
For some people, speaking up for yourself is hard. Really hard. (I’ve been there.) This can be a chance to try it without shame or pushback or any negative repercussions.
Fortunately, this isn’t therapy, and I am not a trained therapist. We may gently, briefly, recognize that there is a history that caused 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, depending on your situation, 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.
I have a great deal of cognitive empathy, but I don’t absorb other people’s emotions the way some people do, and I don’t generally get overwhelmed by hearing about abuse or trauma, especially when it is in the past.
When I hear about injustices in the present, I want to do something about them, but that’s a different thing.
Therapy or counseling is best suited to working through issues from your past, including traumas and the psychological results of years of autistic gaslighting, etc.
Life coaching, at least the way I do it, takes those into account and treats them with compassion and care, but doesn’t get deeply into them. It focuses rather on making a better present and future for yourself.
To put it another way, therapy is like medicine for your mental health. Coaching is like vitamins and yoga, for when your mental health is reasonably stable and you want to make improvements to your life.
Some of my clients find it helpful to engage with both.
If you’re seriously considering doing this, that tells me you’re 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’ve tried everything (else), that tells me you really, really want a better 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.
I’ll be up front with you. This work can be uncomfortable sometimes, because it means bringing up some things you don’t like to think about (for very good reasons). But I’ll be with you every step of the way, and will never push too hard. We’ll keep it gentle, and safe, and I will listen to you the whole way through.
If you’re ready to do this work (with support) it can be powerfully transformative.
All sessions are remote, via Zoom or over the phone, so it doesn’t matter where in the world you are.
Sessions are scheduled for 60 mins, but we’ll finish when it feels complete, which may be a few minutes more or less.
Most people get the best, most lasting results when we meet regularly, especially at the beginning to get some momentum going.
Twice a month is most common, or sometimes weekly or monthly.
Some people prefer an occasional session when something comes up they want to work through.
That works especially well after they’ve been doing this with me for a while and are getting better at continuing it themselves.
It’s really up to you and what you find works best. I don’t require any commitment, so you can modify the pace at any time, as often as needed.
Don’t worry, this won’t be another big thing for you to do.
And since I don’t give homework (unless you specifically ask for it), you don’t have to fret about that for days. 😉
It’s useful to have some idea of what you want to talk about, or get out of the session, but if you’re not sure, I can help and we always come up with something worth getting into (usually pretty easily).
If you want to prepare more for sessions, try asking yourself what you want to be different at the end of our time together. It may be understanding something, a new perspective, figuring out what’s really going on underneath a particular situation, why you’re reacting a certain way, or what’s holding you back from something.
If money is tight, or stuff on your calendar produces anxiety, or you don’t want to agree to too much, it might be easier to manage one at a time.
If executive functioning is a scarcer resource, the package might be easier, as you only have to checkout once. You can even schedule all six right then (but you don’t have to).
You can try just one session, or a few, and stop anytime. If this is not a good fit for you, or you got great results in a few sessions (great!) and are happy to move on, that’s fine.
I don’t make contracts, or require commitments, or hold anyone to promises.
I do require payment upfront for any sessions you schedule (invoicing is a nightmare), but you never have to schedule more than you want, and can reschedule if needed.
Life comes up and sometimes you can’t make it.
You can reschedule or cancel up to two hours before a session and use that appointment later.
No-shows or cancellations with less than 2 hours notice are not refunded or rescheduled, as I don’t have the opportunity to re-plan my time.
If this happens once in a great while, no worries, that’s life.
If this happens more often, we’ll talk (non-judgmentally) about why. Maybe something is getting in the way, stressing you out, or executive function is interfering. If you want to continue, we might do some coaching if you’re not sure what’s going on, or talk about strategies to help.
Absolutely. Some of my clients identify as:
You’re not the only one. I offer professional consultations for therapists, counselors, educators, and other professionals who want to get better at creating positive working relationships with their Autistic clients.
Click here for more info.
We want this to go well, right? To reinforce positive experiences that will lead to an upward spiral of things getting better?
Here are the three things that my other clients have found set them up for success.
Are you willing to invest your time, energy, and finances in trying a different approach?
Is this the right time to start?
(Whatever that means for you.)
Don’t worry, you don’t need to wait for that magical moment when all the stars align.
Is individual coaching the best option at this point in your Journey?
(Group and self-guided options are coming out soon.
Sign up for my newsletter if you want info on those.)
If this isn’t a good fit, no worries. But…
Before you dive in, see if you feel comfortable with me
and ask any questions you have about working together.
One free session is my gift to you.
When you’re ready to jump into coaching,
pick your payment/scheduling preference:
*I offer a limited number of sliding scale client spots. 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- and underemployed, and am thrilled that I can now pay it forward.
My sliding scale involves no bargaining, no paperwork, and no shame. If you’re ready to do the deep work that will help you get to a place in life where you will have more options, and finances are the only thing holding you back, please ask!
I’m also open to trades if your skills match my needs:
Schedule a free Clarity Session to meet and make sure we’re a great fit.
I get it. It’s OK to take a while getting comfortable with me. Or not.
In the meantime, take a look around.
No worries. I’m not a good fit for everyone, and that’s OK.
And if now’s not the right time, that’s OK too.
You’re still welcome to lurk, and to all my freebies.