Respecting Neurodiversity and the Personal Experience of Autism in Assessment and Programming

Kim Clairy, OTR/L, Ruth Aspy, Ph.D., and Barry G. Grossman, Ph.D.

A paradigm shift is needed. The field of autism has historically focused on observable behaviors for diagnosis and programming. This has led to failure to recognize autism, especially in those who camouflage well, and to the tendency to design programs that do not target felt needs. A shift towards self-advocacy, with a focus on personal experience, is needed.  In order to improve outcomes, professionals must inquire about and acknowledge the personal experiences of autistic individuals and work to minimize the impact of masking on the process. With the perspective of an autistic occupational therapist, this workshop will explore the critical importance of these experiences and discuss practical ways for incorporating them in the process. 

At the end of the session, participants will be able to:

  • Describe how the history of autism has led to the narrow focus on behavior (vs. Experience)
  • Identify at least three reasons why it is important to assess personal experiences
  • Describe strategies for including the perspective of the individual on the spectrum in program planning
  • Describe at least three methods for assessing personal experiences 


Meet Your Instructors

Occupational Therapist Kimberly Clairy, OTR/L

Kim Clairy, OTR/L, an autistic occupational therapist, international speaker, consultant, author, and self-advocate. Diagnosed with autism Kim learned to break through personal and societal barriers, including navigating the healthcare system with ASD and an eating disorder. Her experiences forged a passion for educating others on autism with the hope of helping give voice to those unable to articulate their inner worlds. Using personal and professional experiences, Kim educates on many facets of autism across the lifespan including eating disorders, trauma, mental health, ADHD, intimacy, relationships, self-awareness, problem-solving through challenging behaviors, and much more!

Licensed Psychologist Ruth Aspy, Ph.D.

Ruth Aspy, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist specializing in transdisciplinary assessment and intervention for individuals on the spectrum. She is co-author of a comprehensive model of intervention, The Ziggurat Model, which earned the Literary Achievement Award from the Autism Society.  Dr. Aspy has provided training and consultation throughout the United States and internationally. She serves on the Autism Society of America’s Panel of Professional Advisors. Her focus is on understanding the underlying characteristics of autistic individuals keeping their neurological/brain differences in mind.  Dr. Aspy believes that kindness is at the heart of all good support strategies. She has an emphasis on working with females on the spectrum and with those individuals who have symptoms of catatonia.

Licensed Psychologist Barry G. Grossman, Ph.D.

Barry G. Grossman, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and author in private practice. He specializes in counseling and assessing individuals on the spectrum and has an emphasis on working with females on the spectrum. Dr. Grossman presents internationally and has provided state-wide training and consultation to improve autism assessment and intervention in the public schools. He has authored books, textbook chapters, and journal articles. Dr. Grossman, along with his co-author, Dr. Aspy, wrote The Ziggurat Model-a book on designing interventions for individuals on the autism spectrum. The Ziggurat Model, which earned the Literary Achievement Award from the Autism Society, is being used successfully throughout the United States and internationally in countries including Japan, Greece, Canada, and Mexico. Dr. Grossman serves on the Autism Society's Panel of Professional Advisors.

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Underlying Characteristics Checklists

The self-reports help to assess personal experience