Jenny Palmiotto writes a letter from her future self to herself in 2015
Dear Jenny of 2015,
When letters start off this way, it is usually to reflect on our past selves. These letters are filled with wisdom from the passage of time and the knowledge that ‘everything is going to be okay.’ This is not how this letter will go. This letter is addressed to me from my future self, the me of 2025.
A decade has passed and much has changed. All of your clients can access services without delay, denial, and fighting about ‘evidence based’ treatment. I’m using my clinical judgment and advocating for the personalized and family selected therapies, be it RDI, DIR, ABA, ESDM, or any other therapy that has value. Wow, how you longed for this in 2015. You don’t have to waste time going to appeals with insurance companies anymore. You get to do what you love, which is work with people on the autism spectrum.
By 2025, you’ve been in the field for 25 years. The world’s understanding of autism has broadened, discrimination has lessened. Therapeutic models have advanced far beyond where they started in 1970. There are more jobs and less sad statistics. Parents don’t have to lawyer up to get their schools to listen. Helping professionals help, not harm. The “cure” mentality is a thing of the past. The vaccine debate is over. We’ve advanced past believing there is an epidemic of autism.
The term “aging out” has also retired. Instead lifelong supports are available for those that need them. There are creative and innovative housing options. Personalized medicine exists for the comfort of distressing symptoms. Autistic people don’t feel compelled to conceal their diagnosis from employers, friends, and the world. Children of minority and low income families have the same treatment options and access to diagnosis as their majority peers. We have ditched the “high functioning” and “low functioning” labels. In fact, you haven’t heard someone describe their child in these terms in quite some time. There is a deep understanding of differences within autism.
Our world is a kinder place!
Both infanticide and accidental death of children with autism have reduced substantially. Suicide and suicidal ideation has become less of a threat to those living on the spectrum because autistic people are growing up in an engaging, not isolating world. Parent don’t worry about their child getting kicked off a plan or their neighbors filing a lawsuit. The in-fighting has ceased related to person-first or identify-first language — and we are comfortable with each person making this decision for themselves. Children with diagnoses are not spending every waking hour in therapy, instead they are creating memories with the people that matter most; their families. Parents are empowered and educated. How I longed for these things as a young clinician.
The world looks better than it did in 2015. Parents don’t call you anymore to tell you that their past therapist let their child cry for two hours as part of therapy. Parents aren’t terrified when they learn that their child has been diagnosed with autism. In fact, parents of the newly diagnosed have so many healthy role models that they don’t enter crisis. They find value and worthiness in their child regardless of diagnosis.
You still love you job just as much as the year you started. Change is coming. Be part of it!
Jenny Palmiotto, Psy D., LMFT (#47573), is the Clinical Director and owner of The Family Guidance & Therapy Center of Southern California. She is also the creator and host of Love & Autism: A Conference at Heart. She is president and founder of the non-profit One Day Tomorrow. As a certified RDI consultant, Jenny has been empowering parents to be the ‘agent of change’ in their children’s lives for 13 years. Jenny believes that love is the primary goal in life and that this doesn’t change with neurological differences associated with autism. Her clinical practice focuses on improving quality of life through meaningful and authentic interactions. Jenny is an outspoken advocate for change within the autism community. She challenges the dominant discourse about autism. Every person needs to feel valued and live a worthwhile life. Jenny is passionate about walking besides her client’s as they live fulfilling and productive lives. Visit www.familyguidanceandtherapy.com or www.loveandautism.com to connect with Jenny.