About

I’m Sue Gerrard. I am the parent of a child diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. I trained as a biologist, psychologist and primary teacher. My research into autism has raised questions about the concept of autism in particular, so-called mental disorders in general, and how scientists form their theoretical models.

The first four posts in this blog were originally published on my blog about autism what is autism anyway? I started this blog because of of my concerns about the models of child development currently used in children’s services.

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3 thoughts on “About

  1. Sue, pleasure to read your blog and perhaps I may query into the how tos of taking Autism into the private practice of counselling.
    As my son has a dx of Level 1 ASD, with other labels of ADHD, PDD NOS, I am shifting my RN mental health 25yr career to tune into supporting teens and young adults living with ASD. I am interested in counselling — psychotherapy for individuals living with ASD, Level 1 and 2, verbal. I am currently in a Master’s program in clinical psychology and am developing a theoretical base.
    In your dual view as a mother and a psychologist, what would be a theoretical base that would be theraputic to support a client in counselling that has ASD traits?
    I am currently studying EBP and psychoanalytic theory and found attachment theory very behaviour based, e.g. ABA/IBI.
    Kind regards,
    Joan M.
    Bowmanville, ON
    Canada

    • Hi Joan

      Thank you for your interest. I should point out that I trained in organisational not clinical psychology, so my perspective of the theoretical basis for therapeutic interventions is an outsider’s rather than an insider’s view. Having said that, I am interested in theoretical models as theoretical models, so here goes….

      Developing a coherent evidence-based theoretical framework for a counselling approach is obviously a challenge. One of the reasons for that is that various theories about autism and theories about therapeutic interventions have been based on whatever theoretical framework was available at the time.

      Kanner’s account of autism is clearly framed in terms of psychoanalytic theory. ABA & IBI are derived from a behaviourist model, attachment theory developed from evolutionary biology applied to a psychoanalytic model. All the theoretical frameworks rest on assumptions; they have to, because they are based on the best information available at the time, and our knowledge is always incomplete.

      Each of the overarching theoretical frameworks has been largely superseded as an explanation for human behaviour and learning; psychodynamic models were replaced by behaviourism which was replaced by cognitive models, which have been supplemented by neurological models. It doesn’t follow that everything about psychodynamic or behaviourist or cognitive frameworks is wrong – some elements are still very useful. It’s more a case of the underlying assumptions changing and the elements needing to be reframed, or abandoned or reconfigured in the light of new knowledge.

      My suggestion for a theoretical base that encompasses all the different theoretical models you are working with would be one based on cognitive neuroscience because we have a fairly good understanding of cognition and a rapidly developing understanding of its biological basis. For example, a key feature of psychoanalytic theory is the unconscious, and we know that many cognitive processes occur pre-consciously, and even why they occur pre-consciously. Similarly, reinforcement is a key feature of behaviourism and we now have a better idea of how the reward and punishment processes work biologically. For an accessible overview, I’d recommend Rita Carter’s book “Mapping the Mind”. I hope that helps.

      I’m puzzled by what you said about attachment theory and ABA/IBI. Could you say some more about that?

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