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Is a "lack of skills" really the problem here?

Updated: Jun 9

White text on a green/blue gradient background that reads:  “What if they don’t need more coping skills? What if they just need you to stop giving them so much to cope with?”  Autball logo at the bottom.

A child is having outbursts at school, or at home, or wherever else, on a pretty regular basis. And at some point, someone suggests that they need to learn better coping skills.

They suggest therapy, or maybe there’s even a special program at school. Because yes, better coping skills/self-regulation skills/frustration tolerance really would solve everything, wouldn’t it?

Well those are fine skills to have, to be sure, but more often than not, it’s not what that child (or adult) needs most. What they really need is someone to figure out what’s stressing them out so much and then do something about THAT.

Because it’s not actually weird to be distressed over distressing things. Maybe you don’t understand what’s so distressing about school or the grocery store or that new person in the house, but that doesn’t mean their distress isn’t legit.

People reeaalllly like to suggest better coping skills for autistic, ADHD, and otherwise ND folks. (Since we already have a diagnosis that pathologizes our way of being, it’s that much easier to locate the problem in US.) And what they’re really saying with this an awful lot of the time is, “Can you please stop being so distressed by distressing things because it’s making a lot of work for us and we’re not about to change anything for you.”

So before you put someone in some sort of therapy that will teach them that they’re wrong to be upset about the things that upset them and how to get better at pretending to be okay, maybe consider that you might be expecting them to “cope” with more than they can reasonably be expected to.

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