I received this lovely email from one of our clients, who wanted to outline the ways in which our coach had helped her. I’ve changed the name and added two references, but I thought her voice provided such a clear and encouraging story I wanted to share (permission was granted).
My Asperger Coaching Sessions, by ‘Helen’
I had an Access to Work Assessment, as I was finding my office admin based work for a transport department difficult, and was concerned about losing my job. As a result I was provided with the Asperger Strategy Coaching sessions, Read and Write Gold software and a Voice Recorder to help me with my work.
What areas have been covered in the coaching
1) Stress management –many useful suggestions such as:
the ‘dump and tear’ method (similar to CBT reality checking)
2) Using sensory methods to calm myself such has having pictures on my desk and things that smell nice such as herbs and flowers
3) Scheduling and Planning Tasks, using post-it notes to plan the time needed to do tasks during busy periods and using a whiteboard to plan tasks with many different contingencies that can become confusing
4) Communication – using the ‘clean feedback’ method to avoid getting distressed or angry with work colleagues. This method separates actions, words and behaviour from interpretations and emotions, to prevent misunderstanding and jumping to conclusions. See Caitlin Walker’s work for more information.
5) Help with spelling by learning the ‘magic spelling’ method. See Cricket Kemp’s work for more information.
6) Using mind maps for taking minutes for meetings
What strategies or approaches have had the greatest impact and why? What has worked well for you?
Listening to people and writing at the same time was very stressful as I found it difficult to keep up and to fully understand what people were saying. I would miss important information and get information confused as I was listening to different information from what I was writing down. Using the mind mapping method of taking minutes as described by the coach allows me to write briefer notes and make quicker connections between different aspects of the subject under discussion. This helps me to understand more accurately what is being said and to pick up the important points.
Sensory methods to calm myself
This has been useful for calming me in ways that are not directly linked to the reasons for using them in the coaching session. Having the pictures of art that I like pinned up and bringing in things that smell nice from my garden helps me to feel less like I am in an alien environment. Also, I have had conversations with the people around me related to offering them herbs such as mint and discussion about the pictures. Bringing these things in has enabled me to have conversations that I would not have had otherwise.
To be honest, I have been too anxious so far to provide verbal ‘clean feedback’ directly to managers working within the team! But I have given feedback in emails as this feels less frightening. I can put things more clearly in writing and have distance between me and the person I am giving the feedback to. It also gives them more time to consider what I am saying and avoids me and them from becoming defensive.
Also, just understanding the concept of giving clean feedback is useful as it gives you a clearer idea about what it is reasonable to ask for and can help you to feel more confident about your opinions. I hope to grow in confidence here and start to do this verbally.
Scheduling and Planning Tasks
I have a white board for planning tasks that have complicated contingencies.
I have used a method of planning a period of work by writing tasks on post-it notes and adding time scales to them. I then put the task into my Outlook Calendar and am automatically reminded about them. I need to work on this method as the first time I tried it I did not allow enough time for the tasks. Next time I will set more realistic timings. I can work on this independently now, as my coach has taught me the principles of planning.
Magic Spelling Method
I am now able to spell easily some words that I always had a mental block on as the magic spelling method allows you to create visual cues in the shape of the letters that make up the word. This method is very good for me as my visual memory is stronger than my memory for strings of letters and numbers.