Challenges for the Therapist
It is easy to focus on many of the ways that my work with Asperger Syndrome is different from psychotherapy with neurotypical children and adults. The focus on perspective is much more than a focus on the individual's experience, when working with those whose theory of mind is based on logical knowledge, not based on identification with affective experiences. Learning that another perspective and another experience exists for another person is the first important step for them to understand others' reactions.
Anyone may cause harm unintentionally. We all have to deal with the consequences of our acts, whatever our intentions were (or were not). However, it is important to understand a person's intentions if we are to understand that person. For many with Asperger Syndrome or Nonverbal Learning Disorders, the attribution of intention assumes a motivation that often does not exist. It is much easier to deal with the misunderstandings that occur for these people if we are first clear about what they did or did not intend. They can learn that their behavior may mean something else to someone else, and accept this more easily, if the focus is awareness, not judgment.
In focusing on the differences in this work, I do not want to forget a basic similarity in the therapeutic work. For the therapist, the similarity in the therapeutic work is this: It is our job to understand the person we are with. We need to do this, whether or not he or she fits our usual way of understanding others. We need to express our understanding in a way that makes sense to our patients, because it is consistent with their experience of themselves and helps us both to know them better. This is what we hope to do in our work with everyone we see.