Coaching is a journey and I have found myself with a great opportunity working with young people on the autistic spectrum; which has proven to be a real road of development for both them and me. Having to put aside the traditional coaching methods of using words and asking thought provoking questions, which to the autistic world are inconsistent and easily misinterpreted, I instead have started to use pictures, images and symbols.
Creative autistic minds = creative coaching methods!
I have found that visual support is a must and preparing for each session involves looking at photographs and short videos that may help to improve understanding and avoid anxiety for those I am working with. Symbols and written words are useful for answering those few questions you find you can ask, in the right moment and at the right time; usually questions aimed at an activity rather than directed towards the individual.
My most successful method has been using activities that interest and motivate – a hobby or a pastime that really captures imagination. These activities have included jewellery making, photography and art and have provided opportunities for building strong rapport and relationships; which really does underpin working with people on the autistic spectrum.
So what about Goal Setting? Aspirations? Ambitions? I have found that not many come forward and expectations need to be managed and realistic assessments made depending on the individual. Opposed to new experiences, maintaining structure to sessions is key to reduce levels of anxiety and allow learning in how to tolerate and accept new skills and experiences, which in turn encourages independence and improves confidence and the desire to do something different.
A learning curve? Yes! A challenge? Yes! But great for stepping out of that comfort zone and finding out more about how individuals think and feel.