My daughter is 24 and was diagnosed with ASD late last year. She's always suffered from severe anxiety, which led to depression, and has been trying to get help since she was 17. I'm waiting to get an Autism assessment myself, although I'm nearly 100% sure I'm in there somewhere! We both have EDS, and the link has been made between the two illnesses recently. She has been a nightmare to cope with since she was about nine, but got significantly worse at puberty. The local mental health team have been appallingly bad, they ignored us suggesting she was in the spectrum for year. Now all they'll offer is group therapy based on "mentalization", which looks to me like the basic CBT she's had suggested many times before.
She has typical depression symptoms of not getting up, missing school/Uni; not washing or brushing her teeth; not engaging with life at all; being nocturnal etc. She was suicidal in her teens, but we seemed to manage to help her with that. Family therapy's advice was "do nothing"!!!!!!
I suggested a move to a local Uni, as she got much worse A levels that her intelligence would suggest, although she only attended school about 50% of the time, so did well to get her three Cs. I wondered if the thought of being many miles away was part of why she felt she couldn't apply for courses. After a couple of years of being at home getting worse and worse, her GP changed her anti-depressant which helped, while the MHT didn't prescribe anything. When the dose was increased, she eventually became well enough to attend the local Uni and move out into Halls.
She failed her first year, as she couldn't bring herself to do her work, sometimes couldn't hand it in, for some reason. She's changed courses and prefers the one she's on.
It became clear that the psychiatrist (Freudian) was blaming ME for her symptoms! I've done research and seen that this used to be the case years ago - separation problems etc - but honestly it's so frustrating! It's my genes that she has, but all the mental health professionals seem to think it's my fault she is as she is. I have another daughter who is physically disabled, probably also in the spectrum, but who has no anxiety at all, and they have the same Mum. I am quite confident-sounding, and obviously fairly opinionated, but I really have tried to tone it down when I had dealings with the MHT, but when they're just not helping at all, the frustration is so severe.
I shouldn't bang on so much, but it's as though the symptoms continually surprise them, and the fact that they've "followed" her to Uni, too. She's in a shared house and I know her symptoms bother her house mates and people on her course. She comes across as "normal" in conversation, but then how she acts afterwards is clearly detrimental to her health. I'm sick of medical professionals telling her she should exercise, eat healthily, drink plenty of water, get out of bed during the day and do her work, etc as though telling her just not to have her symptoms! They don't look behind WHY she can't manage to do these things. It isn't that she doesn't want to, the poor woman! It's putting the cart before the horse, help her with her problems, find a way to help, and then her symptoms will subside.,
Over the years, I've nagged, been angry, been as kind as a kind thing, done nothing... all to no avail. Now I try to occasionally help from afar, but the medics don't understand that she doesn't open letters, doesn't make phone calls, doesn't make appointments, etc. If I leave it up to her, nothing "official" gets done at all. I even have to keep on checking she's taking her medication & have lost count of the times she's finally admitted that she's run out, and had to coerce her GPs practice into immediately providing a prescription. They have her letter of diagnosis, but can't get past her presenting as "normal" so don't make allowances or understand what her behaviour is like, they expect her to take her pills etc.
I don't want to micromanage her, I want her to become independent, but whenever I leave things alone, she just seems to do things she's completely obsessed with Dungeons and Dragons, but no washing, Uni work, teeth brushing etc. My husband and I, and her big sister, wonder if she'll ever be able to live an independent life, which is really worrying.
She says thing she shouldn't (me too! but I realise afterwards and try to make a mental note), is too "huggy" and tactile with people, but won't listen to us explaining why she shouldn't be like that. She feels things so strongly (me too), but insists on acting upon the feeling instead of reflecting and realising she shouldn't.
We have ended up having a rocky relationship, as everything has to be her way, and she shows little interest in our lives, despite all of us loving her and being interested in hers, although we try not to intrude.
How can I help her? How can I make others understand the depth of her problems?. There is no-one local who does psychotherapy/counselling for Autistic people, and I can't drive her miles and miles, as I'm not physically well myself & have her sister to care for.
If anyone has nay suggestins, I'd be very grateful.
I don't feel blamed (well mostly not) but I do feel unsupported and mostly at odds with services who seem to provide one-size-fits-all options for individuals rather than tailored help for families or parents/carers.
I'm still searching myself so unfortunately haven't much to suggest. I'm basically doing the rounds with the NAS, a local autism charity, the carers association, a few FB groups and extensive reading (which somehow never quite hits the spot).
In spite of your "rocky relationship", from what you say it sounds as though your daughter still communicates with you so I'd probably start there. I appreciate you've probably already done a lot of listening and discussing, but I'd keep bringing it back to that, maybe more in the sense of active listening, if you haven't already done so, and allowing any thoughts or suggestions to bubble up from her rather than making any suggestions. She's presumably aware of the issues, hence the depression, but maybe has a different focus or take on these from those around her. The priorites observed from the outside (hygiene or ordering prescriptions promptly) possibly don't rank that highly on her list, especially if she's feeling very anxious and preoccupied and not in any state of mind to be sorting out practicalities.
I'm wondering what type of approach she would favour? She's presumably agreeable to therapy since you mention it, but is there a particular approach that appeals to her (and moves away from basic CBT-type brief interventions and erroneous Freudian assumptions)? Might something be available over Skype so there's no need to travel? Or does her university have anything to offer that might help (additional tutor time, accommodations, mentoring or counselling)?
I also wonder about her other interests and what strengths and aptitudes these might reveal. What is it about Dungeons and Dragons that appeals? Are there any related interests? What other relationships does she have? Might there be anything in these areas that can be built upon?
Other things I'm wondering about (but haven't fully explored myself yet) are somatic approaches, including such things as yoga, tai chi, chi kung, focusing or somatic experiencing which might be helpful with anxiety if these are options she might consider. I've found them helpful myself over the years (and was eventually diagnosed a few months ago).
Overall, though, I'd say it'd be good to find a professional who'd build up a thorough and shared formulation of the issues with your daughter and use this as a starting point. i'm finding this well nigh impossible with NHS services though.
I'm curious about Sarah Hendrickx Associates, if anyone has any info on or experience of what they have to offer.
Im not sure how much help ill be, but im an autistic woman who's also experienced fairly severe anxiety and depression. That was what led to me getting my own diagnosis last year. Im quite a bit older than your daughter, so lots may be different but maybe it would help to share what has helped me a bit?
Mainly for me its been realising that autism has been behind most of my mental health problems and that dealing with that will help a huge amount. Initially it was just such a relief that things 'werent my fault' but i guess your daughters beyond that stage if shes had the diagnosis a while?
I found mainstream mental health support ineffective at best and harmful at worst. Being told to change things you cant help isnt helpful! I found watching youtube vidoes by sarah hendrickx realky useful post-diagnosis. She talks specifically about autistic women and has a video about anxiety which she describes as being a perfectly rational (rather than irrational as suggested by most CBT strategies) response to living as an autistic in a neurotypical world that made a lot of sense to me. For me more mindfulness based and practical approaches have worked best. I worked for a month or two with a clinical psychologist who did understand ASD. The sort of things she suggested were using sensory calming strategies, eg for me a weighted blanket, being in water, certain smells, fiddle toys, certain music, ear defenders in noisy environments, (avoiding primark always at all costs!). This really helps.
Ive also found a counsellor that i speak to via skype through action for aspergers which has bedn hugely helpful as they really do understand and offer practical suggestions as well as counsel.
In terms of being independent i have also had to concede that i basically cannot manage a full time job plus daily living successfully. I now have a cleaner and use a meal delivery service. I am still independent, just not doing everything myself... or so i tell myself! And bluntly if i didnt pay all bills by direct debit they would not get paid. I used to specialise in red bills.
In terms of remember to do things it could be she simply needs a foolproof organisation system. I say simply... of course it isnt simple to work it out. I find if i dont have a routine at home things get forgotten (like keys, dentists... etc). I use outlook to schedule everything.. and when outlook says jump... you get the picture!
Probably the main thing she needs to know is there are ways round most things but it might take time to work them out. But that there is hope. Does she hav3 support at uni ('cos she ought to). Ive found it is hard to get taken seriously as a woman who masks well ( or can anyway!) which has meant ive had to search out my own support. PM me if you wan5 to chat, or if she does. Think youll have to friend request me first as thats how im set up
No experience of Hendrickx associates as such but my diagnosis was done by her and she runs a post-diagnostic support group ive been to. She was fab. Definately well worth a look i would think. One of the few people ive met who i would absolutely trust in terms of ASD, particularly from a female perspective.
Oh yeah, and its not your 'fault' clearly. Ignore anyone that says it is. Its around 84% heritable according to estimates. Ie its in large part genetic!
I don't think I can explain how little she does in the way of engaging with life. She likes DnD because it involves imagination and role play. She's good at Drama and is brilliant at writing (her current degree is Creative Writing) I have asked so much what she feels might help, and some of it is seeing a therapist who really questions her and tries to untangle her thoughts, which are very negative, but on the NHS we're basically, excuse me, stuffed. I am in what my late Mum referred to as "reduced circumstances", so we can't afford private work for her Other than that, her "lack of motivation", although it's much more than that, is all-consuming. There are people at Uni who are willing to try to help, but she just keeps cancelling the appointments. a health and wellbeing coach gave up on her after four sessions as she "wouldn't use the strategies I've given her". My daughter really wants to live a bit more of a "normal" life, and achieve her degree, but the day to day practicalities make it almost impossible., I've researched, but it's hard to say which symptom is caused by what. Thank you very much for your long reply, much appreciated!
Thank you so much! I'm respond when I have time (I have another daughter who is physically disabled and so I'm not online that much)
I really do know that, but when the MHT think otherwise, it's so horrible! I have no idea how to work this forum yet - how do I send a friend request?
Mmm, yep. I know you can... but as to how! Happy to chat here if you prefer anyway!
Just popping back to echo what Zomted has said here. I have been helped in similar ways and certainly, once I'd seen one Youtube video by Sarah Hendrickx I kept going back to watch the others. She also has a few books which I've found useful, including "Women and Girls with Autism Spectrum Disorder."
Does your daughter read much? Just asking because i've found reading in the area of mindfulness (incl. "The Mindful Way through Depression") and compassion-based approaches (See the work of Paul Gilbert, "The Compassionate Mind") quite helpful, although these are not specifically autism related.
Plus i also find some of the work and ideas of Asperger Experts help to shift my perspective towards positive action. Their courses are a bit pricey (and not very well written for that, I don't think!) and they're American (so I find there's a bit of a culture shift involved) but they have some free stuff on their website and Youtube which might help, if you haven't already come across it, that is.
By the way, your MHT sound most unprofessional and very insensitive. I often wonder whether the NHS are very clued up at all!