Background to my interest in teaching children with autism

There are those who appear to practice psychotherapy as though basic human socialization provided all the necessary skills for the task. The first step in becoming a useful psychotherapist is only partially achieved by becoming skilled in attending and listening to the needs and feelings of others (empathy), in confirming with them the meanings of their communications (reflection), in expressing appreciation and ‘support’ for them (positive regard), in acting in ways to parallel their behaviour (pacing), in offering occasional guidance (leading), and the like. These skills have variously been designated as ‘therapeutic,’ ‘assertive,’ or ‘social’ skills. They are merely the results of good human socialization. Of course, they are essential to good psychotherapy, but they form only part of the basic first step in mastering psychotherapy. They are necessary, but by no means sufficient. They seem to provide the fertile soil in which personal and personality change can occur, and without which such change cannot occur (without great difficulty). Psychotherapy using these skills alone is, at best, only one step beyond what most people can obtain without cost from their relatives and friends. And, by itself, the exercise of such skills can hardly be claimed to be competent psychotherapy.
Some psychotherapy trainers, and even some schools of psychotherapeutic thought, have focused almost exclusively on the development of these basic social skills in psychotherapists-in-training. One outcome of their efforts seems to have been the discovery that the best way to help another person to grow in these skills of socialization is to expose him or her to the exercise of such skills. Whether by example, precept or the natural process of growth, at least socialization seems to grow in the fertile soil of the exercise of its skills.

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