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Neurodiversity Series Part 4 - Why we don't use Social Thinking or run 'What's the Buzz' programs

Updated: Oct 3, 2022

Nurture Speech Pathology aligns with the autistic community with our view around Social Skills Training - we do not endorse, encourage or engage in any training that leads to autistic masking. Our team of speech pathologists acknowledges and respects neurodiversity and the autistic community's consensus and lived experience that social skills training often leads to trauma, chronic anxiety, and self-doubt. Many autistic people believe that forcing autistic people to mask their autism by practising and pretending to be neurotypical in order to be deemed neurotypical/acceptable is a violation of their human rights.

This week, we will explore why our Speech Pathologists no longer engage in social skills training or use social skills programs such as Social Thinking or What's the Buzz.

Read Part 1- Introduction here

Read Part 2 - Double Empathy Problem here

Read Part 3 - All you need to know about ABA here

What is social skills training?

Social Communication is the way individuals navigate interactions with others. This usually involves how we use language for different reasons (e.g. to greet, to inform, to request), adjust their language depending on the listener/situation (e.g. how we speak to little children vs adults) and "neurotypical rules" for conversations (e.g. taking turns).

Social skills training is used to "improve social skills in people" so that they can be "socially competent". Social skills trainings/programs take neurotypical social communication styles as the "gold standard". The goal of these programs is to train individuals to act and think like a neurotypical individual in order to fit in and be considered "normal".

Social Skills Training is an imposition of one culture over another 
- Kieren Rose, The Autistic Advocate and Senior Advisory to Therapist Neurodiversity Collective

Quick Recap: Medical Model vs Social Model of Disability

The medical model views disability as a medical problem that belongs to the disabled individual. The medical model aims to look for a cure to solve and fix the problem.

On the other hand, 'the social model views disability as a natural part of the human experience in terms of inclusion, equity, and justice'. The social model looks at how we can remove barriers by introducing accommodations and modifications, and putting in supports so that they can enjoy equal rights and opportunities.

Why is social skills training discouraged by the autistic community?

Social skills training is a violation of human rights. 

According to the autistic community, encouraging/training autistic people to mask their autism by pretending to be neurotypical so that they are accepted or deemed normal is a violation of their human rights.

Autistic social differences are often labelled as deficits by social skills training programs. Social skills trainings/programs teach autistic individuals that their communication style is inferior. When we perform social skills training, we are telling a child that their way of communication and interacting with others is wrong and needs to be fixed (e.g. Social thinking labelling autistic individuals who might struggle with flexible thinking as "rock brain"). How would one feel if they are referred to as having a rock brain? or that they are a 'Glassman' or 'Brain Eater' as you make people upset or distract people?

Social skills training inhibits autistic authenticity and leads to a lifetime of chronic anxiety, self-doubt, self-blaming and hyper vigilance in social situations - Julie Roberts (Therapist Neurodiversity Collective)

Training autistic individuals to mask their autistic traits puts them in a perpetual state of anxiety as they would have to be on constant alert and worry about whether the "social skills" they are displaying/using are acceptable enough to be liked, accepted and deemed normal. This perpetual state of anxiety and worry causes trauma and leads long term consequences - Autistic individuals who engage in masking often are diagnosed with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety disorders (according to research, this can be as high as 50-70%).

Speech Pathologists Adelaide

Speech Pathologists at Nurture Speech Pathology are passionate about learning directly from autistic individuals themselves to educate us on how we can better understand and support them in an empathetic and respectful way. We hope that you join us in our journey to learn more about how to be neurodiversity-affirming and to spark a change in the way we interact and support neurodivergent individuals.

why cHOOSE Speech Pathologists Near Me?

Looking for neurodiversity affirming Speech Pathologists in Adelaide? Contact us at 08 8102 4209 or to discuss whether we are a right fit for you and your child.

Coming soon in the Neurodiversity Series - "How to support autistic/neurodivergent individuals when social skills trainings are discouraged?"

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Calvin Wong
Calvin Wong
10 aug. 2023

I have been going through the idea of neurodiversity for quite some time, but there a few points that keeps puzzling me.

What's the point of parenting and education if we were to embrace and acknowledge all forms of expression or behavior? Neurotypical or nerudivergent.

ASD children does have difficulties in understanding others, so what's the problem in teaching them how to do so?

What's the difference between education and teaching to mask? Even neurotypicals learn about what's right and what's wrong and are required to learn appropriate behaviors. Is this against their individuality? Of course there are behaviors that are at the individual difference level, but there are also ones that truly impact on their quality of life.




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