Thoughts on Theory of Mind
Theory of Mind is often pointed out as an autistic deficit, but is it really that? Is something else going on? And is it just autistics that find this challenging?
Have you been absorbing the experiences of autistic and neurodiverse adults and want to fully support your autistic or ND child (of any age) to be their best self?
But you’re not sure how to get around the things that everyone says are the “right” way to do things?
The fear that’s it’s all going to go wrong and hurt your child in the end?
The mental adjustments you want to make, that you suspect are necessary, for your child to feel better, and do better?
I’m here to help.
You love your autistic teen or young adult dearly AND you’re struggling to connect, to help, to find resources that fit what they need, that actually make a difference, and that aren’t punitive or compliance-based.
You watch them struggling with anxiety and overwhelm. They’re tired all the time, isolate in their room, spend way too much time on devices, and avoid anything labeled as “social.”
They insist they’re fine and don’t need help, or are sick of it. Or they’re asking for help but you’ve tried everything. Or the options you’ve found make you queasy.
You’re feeling lost and confused about what to do, how to break through, and you really need some good sleep.
And wouldn’t it be nice to meet someone who didn’t see your child as a problem? As difficult? Or challenging?
You want someone who sees your kid first as a worthwhile human being.
Deep down, you know there must be a better way.
And it should feel good while doing it.
You know what? You’re right.
Parenting help generally comes in three flavors:
Do any of those match the vision you have of what a healthy, communicative relationship with your child looks like? Your better future?
Don’t get me wrong, strategies are great, and sometimes new ideas are exactly what you need. Especially ones tailored to autistic and ADHD and other neurowonderful ways of being in the world.
That’s why I have lots of this kind of free information on my website. (See my blog, downloads, and free workshops.)
But frankly, you don’t need to pay someone lots of money for the kind of generic info you can get for free on Twitter or Facebook.
If you’re going to pay someone for personalized help, it better be worth the cash. And in my book, that means getting to the root of a situation.
That’s why I offer a different kind of parenting help:
I invite you to tell me what you value most, and help you make the mental shifts necessary to create that for yourself.
I coach parents, not parenting.
This might sound like splitting hairs, but I’m not here to tell you how to parent your child. I trust and believe that you will always do the best job that you are able at any given time.
That’s what you’ve always been doing. The best that you were able.
And that’s what your child has been doing as well.
What I do is to help parents, as people, to
Because when you’re not wasting energy fighting yourself or your environment, you can be your best self.
And when you feel better inside, you will naturally parent more in line with your best values, and your kids will get the benefit of that.
They will feel better too, and they will do better.
Well, you might. Part of you, at least.
The part that lies awake at night worrying…
What will happen to them when they get older?
When they have to do things on their own?
How will the world treat them?
Not everyone is going to be as accepting as you, and what if people are mean, or worse?
That worried part of you is working so hard to protect your precious, lovely child (no matter their age).
That part of you has probably been hurt before when you were different, and you want to spare them the grief.
And it’s probably that part of you that says and does the things you regret later, because if your kid were just more normal, everything would be easier.
And yet, does the idea of doing things differently, on purpose, inspire terror, shame, instant outrage, an urge to run the other way, to freeze or collapse?
You’re not the only one.
Most of us have had experiences in our lives in which being different put us on the spot, and not in a happy, look-at-how-cool-you-are kind of way. Maybe you were laughed at, made fun of, teased, insulted, hurt, blamed, or ridiculed. Maybe you were physically or emotionally abused.
And that’s not what you want for your kid. Of course it’s not. You want to protect them from all of that.
So now I’m going to ask a hard question. (And you already know I’m autistic, so I’m going to be direct, but it’s not intended to be rude or hurtful.)
Have your feelings, from your own experiences of being different, contributed to how you interact with your child? With their teachers and other support people? With your spouse or partner?
I’m guessing that the answer might be somewhat uncomfortable.
I’m also guessing that, if you’ve read this far, there’s another part of you that isn’t afraid.
A part of you that has memories of being seen and respected exactly as you are, with all your wonderful differences, and who knows that this is possible for your child as well.
And you want to live into that reality more, but the fears are holding you back.
That’s exactly what I help with.
If you’d like personalized help finding those fears, beliefs, and internalized ableism…
and helping them feel safe enough that they can let you go…
so you can live and parent from your best self…
your creative and compassionate and courageous self…
to make a better and brighter future for your neurowonderful child…
Most parents come to me looking for help with a specific issue, or a few, but also wanting more than surface strategies. This is a great place to start.
Here are a few of the things people came to me for help with.
And yes, they got real results:
I help you find the internalized barriers that are preventing you from answering these questions yourself, and gently guide you to let them go (or rather, help them let go of you), which opens up so many possibilities.
Then we find ways to live and work and parent that match how your brain/body functions best.
We’ll go back-and-forth between these two modes, letting go of one internalized barrier at a time, and finding a new truth, new possibilities, and new strategies to replace it.
When you live like this, it takes soooo much less energy, lowers anxiety and stress, so there is less to complain about, and you feel better about yourself, so you’re easier to be around and everything starts working better, including your relationship with your kids. It’s a win-win-win-times-a-million.
Is this what you want? It is possible. I can help.
*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 personalized life coaching based on Martha Beck’s Wayfinder model (how to find your best life), informed by my own autistic experiences and what works best for my clients.
I’ll adapt to what you need, want, and find helpful.
I guide, offer, invite, but never demand or “make” you do anything.
We’ll talk together over Zoom, and sessions last about an hour.
Most people get the best, most lasting results when we meet regularly: weekly, twice a month, or monthly. Some people prefer an occasional session here or there. It’s up to you, based on your needs and situation.
It generally works best to bring a particular issue that you’re struggling with. Something you want to be better.
From there I will ask powerful questions to help you find the things that you’ve been taught to believe about yourself, your child, and how the world works, that have been hurting you and holding you back.
We will gently and compassionately question them to find out what parts are true and what parts are social conditioning that you don’t need anymore.
As you unlearn each ableist belief, each bit of conditioning from your family, teachers, society, etc., new options for addressing that specific issue will emerge.
And this will create ripples that will spread to your relationship with your kid(s), partner, and throughout your life to help in other areas as well.
This is the process of making your whole life better, one little bit at a time.
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.
You probably won’t completely unmask, cheerfully chit-chat with strangers, or be all done with burnout. 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. 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. 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 make it 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, no. Not that I assign, anyway.
I find that “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. I’m here to support you as you direct your own progress, because you know what will work for you. It’s my job to help you get in touch with your own inner wisdom.
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.
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 via Zoom, 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.
Meeting regularly often produces the best results, especially at the beginning, to get some momentum going.
A lot of my clients like meeting every other week. Some like weekly, but that can feel kind of intense.
Some people prefer monthly or just once in a while as needed, especially 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 we can modify the pace at any time, as often as needed.
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. If this happens once in a great while, I don’t have a problem with it.
If this starts happening more often, we’ll talk about what is happening. Maybe something is getting in the way, stressing you out, or executive function is interfering. If you want to continue, we’ll talk about strategies to help.
Absolutely. Some of my clients identify as:
Email me or schedule your free clarity session and let’s see if we’re a good fit.
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.
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.