Mental health – a trans partner’s perspective

Jo Green, founder of Distinction Trans Partner Support and the author of The Trans Partner Handbook, explores the importance of talking openly about mental health when you are in a relationship with a trans individual.

As Jo notes in the extract below, trans people are more likely than cis people to experience mental health issues, but communication is key for both parties to feel fully supported throughout transition. In this extract, we hear from the partners of trans people on their experiences of dealing with mental health issues. 

Trans people are more likely than the cis population to have mental health issues, which are caused by a long history of gender dysphoria and/or chronic minority stress rather than by being trans (World Professional Association for Transgender Health, 2011). Minority stress is the increased stress of being part of a minority group, and it is due to the lack of awareness in the general population and consequent discrimination faced by people in a minority.
“I think the worst of this aspect was when my partner was growing up and the times when she contemplated suicide. This was at a time when there was no internet or groups visibly available. I feel very fortunate that my partner confided in me very early in our relationship, and the past 15 years, it has been a journey we have made together. I do have to reassure her that [I] will always be there for her, which I will be, and have given it lots of thought to be sure that this is a situation I can cope with and am happy to be in.” (Avril)
According to the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH), trans people can present with a number of mental health concerns, such as depression, anxiety and self-harm. They also present with compulsivity, substance abuse or sexual concerns, as well as being more likely to have suffered a history of abuse or neglect. Trans people are also more likely to suffer personality disorders, eating disorders or psychotic disorders. WPATH also notes that trans people are more likely to present with autistic spectrum disorders.

“I have learned to work with my partner’s mental health needs. [I] have learned cues that help me know when he is feeling anxious or stressed, and [I] encourage him to talk if he needs to or to seek medical assistance if there’s a need for that kind of support. It’s definitely not something to be ignored or avoided, and in most cases, it’s a requirement for the transition process.” (Julia)

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JKP Author Honored as Book Award Finalist

JKP Author Dr. Lee A. Wilkinson was recently honored as an Award-Winning Finalist in the “Psychology/Mental Health” category of the 13th Annual Best Book Awards for his book, Overcoming Anxiety on the Autism Spectrum: A Self-Help Guide Using CBT. Selected from more than 2,000 entries from traditional and independent publishers, 400 winners and finalists were announced in over 100 categories. This is the second award for Dr. Wilkinson whose JKP book, A Best Practice Guide to Assessment and Intervention for Autism and Asperger Syndrome in Schools was selected as the winner in the Educational/Academic category of the Next Generation Indie Book awards.

About Overcoming Anxiety and Depression on the Autism Spectrum

Dr. Lee A. Wilkinson’s award-winning book presents strategies derived from cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), adapted specifically for adults on the higher end of the autism spectrum, to help them overcome anxiety and depression, and improve their psychological well-being. The author takes the best of CBT therapeutic techniques to facilitate greater self-understanding, self-advocacy, and better decision-making in life-span activities such as employment and interpersonal relationships.

Accessible and easy-to-read, this self-help guide provides evidence-based tools that can be used to learn new self-fulfilling ways of thinking, feeling, and doing. It includes questionnaires, forms, worksheets, and exercises to help the reader:

  • Evaluate his or her autistic traits and discover their cognitive style.
  • Identify and modify the thoughts and beliefs that underlie and maintain the cycles of anxiety, depression, and anger.
  • Apply therapeutic techniques such as mindfulness, positive self-talk, guided imagery, and problem-solving.
  • Accept the past and achieve unconditional self-acceptance.
  • Deal effectively with perfectionism and low frustration tolerance.
  • Avoid procrastination and learn to maintain the positive changes to their progress.

Used alone or in combination with therapy, Overcoming Anxiety and Depression on the Autism Spectrum: A Self-Help Guide Using CBT is an essential self-help book for adults on the higher end of the spectrum looking for ways to understand and cope with their emotional challenges and improve their psychological well-being. It is also appropriate for adults who recognize their autistic traits, even though they may not have experienced major social difficulties and clinical impairment, but who want to improve their emotional well-being. Family members, friends, and others touched by autism will find this self-help book a valuable resource as well.

About the Author

Lee A. Wilkinson, PhD, is a scientist, researcher, and practitioner. He is a licensed and nationally certified school psychologist, chartered educational psychologist, registered psychologist, and certified cognitive-behavioral therapist. He is also a university educator and trainer, and has published widely on the topic of autism spectrum disorders both in the US and internationally. Dr. Wilkinson is author of the award-winning book, A Best Practice Guide to Assessment and Intervention for Autism and Asperger Syndrome in Schools, also published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers and editor of a best-selling text in the American Psychological Association (APA) School Psychology Book Series, Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children and Adolescents: Evidence-Based Assessment and Intervention in Schools. His latest book from JKP is A Best Practice Guide to Assessment and Intervention for Autism Spectrum Disorder in Schools (2nd Edition).

How to develop positive thinking in young people with autism by using Social Stories ™

” What Einstein was to atomic theory, astronomy, and math,
Siobhan Timmins is to Social Stories™ “
Carol Gray (founder and creator of Social Stories™)

 

Using the highly effective Social Stories™ model, Developing Resilience in Young People with Autism using Social Stories™ is full of ideas for coping with negative experiences and helping young people with autism, who are particularly susceptible to setbacks. In the following extract Siobhan Timmins introduces how to build positive thinking and then presents two Social Stories™ from her book called
Beginning to think in a positive way and Learning to think in a positive way.

 

Click the link below to read the extract

 

READ THE EXTRACT 

 

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5 things about conversation that everyone on the autism spectrum should know


Starting a conversation and then maintaining one can be difficult for teenagers and young adults on the autism spectrum. In the following blog Paul Jordan, the author of  How to start, carry on and end conversations: Scripts for social situations for people on the autism spectrum offers up advice on making sense of everyday social situations and gives us 5 top tips on maintaining a good conversation with someone.

  • Maintain eye contact with the other person
    This is extremely important for successful conversations, especially with neurotypicals (people without autism). This is arguably because, their brains which are wired conventionally, tell them that you are giving them your attention when you are looking at them.  Continue reading

Take a peek at our 2017 autism catalogue

Our latest autism catalogue is now available to view online and if you would like to request a free print copy please e-mail hello@jkp.com

This year’s catalogue has more books in it than ever before from fiction and picture books for children and young readers to life guides on negotiating employment, building relationships and more for adults. Parents will find practical books on coping with challenging behaviour while educators and professionals will find essential resources to use day to day when working with children and adults on the autism spectrum.


If you would like to read more articles like this and get the latest news and offers on our autism books, why not join our mailing list? We can send information by email or post as you prefer.
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Managing Anxiety and Depression on the Autism Spectrum

The dramatic increase in the prevalence of autism spectrum conditions among children and adolescents and the correspondingly large number of youth transitioning into adulthood has created an urgent need to address the mental health problems faced by many adults on the autism spectrum. Nearly a half million youth with autism will enter adulthood over the next decade and most will continue to require some level of support. In addition, there is a large and diverse group of adults whose autistic traits were not identified in childhood and have not received the appropriate interventions and services. Although autism symptoms may improve with age, co-occurring mental health issues may worsen in adolescence or adulthood. As a result, there are a sizable number of adults on the higher end of the spectrum who are now seeking help to deal with feelings of social isolation, interpersonal difficulties, anxiety, depressed mood, and coping problems. Unfortunately, mental health problems such as anxiety and depression and even the diagnosis of an autism spectrum condition itself often go unrecognized. Although the rate of co-occurring (co-morbid) mental health issues for adults on the spectrum is high, accessing services to address these symptoms is frequently difficult and the extent of the problem will only increase as more and more youth transition to adulthood.

Evidence is beginning to emerge for interventions addressing the mental health needs of this growing and under-served group of adults, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT has direct applicability to adults on the autism spectrum who often have difficulty understanding, managing, and expressing emotions. It has been shown to be effective in changing the way a person thinks about and responds to feelings such as anxiety and depression. With CBT, the individual learns skills to modify thoughts and beliefs through a variety of strategies which improve interaction with others in helpful and appropriate ways, thereby promoting self-regulation and mental health. It is a goal oriented approach and primarily emphasizes here-and-now problems, regardless of one’s history, traits, or diagnosis. CBT also provides a more structured approach than other types of psychotherapy, relies less on insight and judgment than other models, and focuses on practical problem-solving. Moreover, because individuals learn self-help in treatment they are often able to maintain their improvement after therapy has been completed. Evidence-based CBT holds considerable promise as an effective intervention for improving the quality of life and psychological well-being of adults on the autism spectrum.

Despite the availability of effective psychological treatments for anxiety and depression, a substantial number of adults on the autism spectrum do not seek professional help. Common obstacles to mental health care access include limited availability and affordability of services, confidentiality issues, lack of insurance coverage, frequent delays and long waiting periods, and social stigma. Likewise, many service providers do not have the experience or expertise to work with individuals on the autism spectrum, particularly those with co-occurring mental health issues. Self-help interventions represent an increasingly popular alternative to therapist-delivered psychological therapies, offering the potential of increased access to cost-effective treatment for a range of different mental health issues. They provide an opportunity for the individual to gain some useful insights and begin to work through their problems with limited guidance from a therapist or mental health professional. Research has clearly shown that self-help strategies are effective, practical, and acceptable for many individuals in reducing mental health problems such as mild to moderate anxiety and depression, often alone or with other forms of treatment. Self-help interventions have the potential to play an important role in providing effective treatment to the large proportion of adults on the spectrum who are experiencing mental health issues.

While there is no shortage of books describing the debates and challenges related to the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum conditions, there is a need for a practical resource for adults on the spectrum that promotes self-understanding and directly teaches effective ways of coping with their emotional challenges. Overcoming Anxiety and Depression on the Autism Spectrum: A Self-Help Guide Using CBT presents strategies derived from cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), adapted specifically for adults on the higher end of the spectrum, to help them overcome anxiety and depression, and improve their psychological well-being. The author takes the best of CBT therapeutic methods to facilitate greater self-understanding, self-advocacy, and better decision-making in life-span activities such as employment and interpersonal relationships. This self-help guide provides evidence-based tools that can be used to learn new ways of thinking, feeling, and doing. It includes questionnaires, worksheets, and exercises to help the reader:

  • Evaluate his or her autistic traits and discover their cognitive style.
  • Identify and modify the thoughts and beliefs that underlie and maintain the cycles of anxiety, depression, and anger.
  • Apply therapeutic techniques such as mindfulness, positive self-talk, guided imagery, and problem solving.
  • Accept the past and achieve unconditional self-acceptance.
  • Deal effectively with perfectionism and low frustration tolerance.
  • Avoid procrastination and learn to maintain positive changes to their progress

Used alone or in combination with therapy, Overcoming Anxiety and Depression on the Autism Spectrum: A Self-Help Guide Using CBT is an essential self-help book for adults on the higher end of the spectrum looking for ways to understand and cope with their emotional challenges and improve their psychological well-being. It was honored as an Award-Winning Finalist in the “Psychology/Mental Health” category of the 2016 Best Book Awards.

About the Author

Lee A. Wilkinson, PhD, is a licensed and nationally certified school psychologist, chartered psychologist, and certified cognitive-behavioral therapist. Dr. Wilkinson is author of the award-winning book, A Best Practice Guide to Assessment and Intervention for Autism Spectrum Disorder in Schools (2nd Edition), also published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers and editor of a best-selling text in the American Psychological Association (APA) Applying Psychology in the Schools Series, Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children and Adolescents: Evidence-Based Assessment and Intervention in Schools.

My child has autism and has started smearing… what can I do?

 

In this blog Kate Reynolds, the author of What to do About Smearing, addresses the issue of smearing and what parents and carers of children with autism can do when they are confronted with this type of behaviour.    Continue reading

“I don’t feel bad about who I am anymore” – Wenn Lawson reflects on the positive experiences of his transition

Wendy, pre-transition

I began my transition of physically moving from my cis-gender (assigned female at birth) to the man I am now seen to be, only 4 years ago. Although it has taken a very long time to recognize my gender dysphoria (I was 61 when the penny dropped) inside my very being I thought and felt very male ever since I can remember. I’m saying ‘male’ because it seemed to be the very opposite of female! I know gender is a spectrum of varying experience, and being female can vary from being ‘very girly’ along a line to being ‘Tom boy,’ but still happy to be female. I lived as a ‘Tom boy’ all of my life, but it wasn’t enough. Since knowing my true gender is male and letting go of all the physical female parts of me, I have never felt so much at home. I didn’t know I wasn’t home until I got here. Why did it take so long? Perhaps because of my autism which causes delays for me in building connections.

Being and feeling connected to my male self is now a reality. Some trans individuals decide they don’t need to change their body in order to feel complete in their trans identity. For me though, my dysphoria meant I couldn’t look in a mirror or allow my wife access to parts of myself during times of affection. My female body was alien and didn’t belong to me. Now, the alien has gone and I’m complete again. Living with such a dis-jointed self was literally tearing me apart. Now, those torn and wounded places that were so foreign are in harmony again and I look in the mirror and see the full reflection of all that I am.

The journey has (still is) been long, painful, exhausting and costly. But, the view from the top of this mountain has meant all the effort is worthwhile. If you asked me would I do this again, of course I won’t have to, but, my answer would be ‘yes.’ I cannot emphasize enough the joy of feeling so connected! All my senses and even my cognitive processing is more in line and less fragmented than before. I make decisions with less fear, doubt and indecisiveness. I have autonomy in ways I never thought possible. My autism hasn’t changed and I still have lots of sensory issues that I need to attend to and cater for, but, I don’t feel bad about who I am anymore.

Wenn

To read more about Wenn’s experience of transition, follow this link to his new book, Transitioning Together.

Tony Attwood on autism – how our understanding and approach has developed over the last 30 years

To mark JKP’s 30th anniversary year Tony Attwood has written about JKP’s role in developing the world’s understanding of and approach to autism. In this article he also touches upon his own experiences as a clinical psychologist/author, and what he thinks will be the key areas of discovery in the future.  Continue reading

What happens when your female partner of 20 years transitions to become male?

‘Transitioning Together’ is the story of Wenn and Beatrice Lawson, an eye-opening account of a couple’s experience of gender transition. After 20 years together, Wenn decided to transition from female to male. This book explores the emotional, psychological and physical challenges that come with transition, told from both Wenn and Beatrice’s perspectives. We asked Wenn a few questions about the couples’ journey.

 Why did you decide to tell your story from both perspectives?

We decided to tell our story from both perspectives because we are a couple and whatever happens for one of us has repercussions for both of us. Also, as we began our journey it would have been great to chat with other couples to get some insights into what to expect. But, we couldn’t find any other couples who were available to share with in person. The only ones we found were over the internet and not accessible to chat to in person. Although we each had a counsellor to share with, a person who most definitely was committed to our best, they were not experienced either. We and they are learning on the job!

You and Beatrice were together for many years before you decided to transition. How do you think this influenced both of your experiences of transitioning?

In many ways it’s much harder on Beatrice because she loved a woman and was never primed for me to be male. Her love and commitment to me has won out over the gender barrier but she grieves for her loss each day. It’s only been 4 years since the decision on that day, but, to her it feels like an eternity. I get what and who I’m designed to be, she loses what she always had. I know she had a man (inside that’s who I’ve always been) but neither of us knew that then. She was used to the rounder, softer contours of my body. These have been replaced with a squarer form and one that is hairier, bonier and has a much lower voice. So, although the male me is growing on Beatrice, she still looks for the smile she knew, or the tilt of my head, symbolic of the old me she knew, and for other things that let her know I’m still me. Whereas I look for the evidence that the old form is gone and I rejoice in the release of the person I really am.

What has been the biggest challenge for you during your transition?

For me the biggest challenge has been defending the man I’m becoming to my wife who has lost the woman she once had. At times it seemed that the ‘male’ me was being blamed for everything. I didn’t want to be defending myself all the time but learning to separate out ‘relational’ issues from ‘the gender’ ones has been quite a challenge.

And for Beatrice?

The biggest challenge for Beatrice has been seeing the Wenn she loves while not being side tracked by the male image Wenn is projected through. Beatrice’s experiences of the males in her life were not positive and this coloured her perceptions. The more Wenn grew in confidence and seemed to need Beatrice less, the more Beatrice felt unimportant and this was an echo of her past. Learning to trust in Wenn’s love is the biggest challenge.

In the book you describe the turmoil you felt as a Christian who had fallen in love with another woman, and the reaction of the Church and Church members to your relationship with Beatrice. Did your relationship with your faith change when you refused to deny your feelings for Beatrice?

I can honestly say that my faith hasn’t changed. My Heavenly Father is the same and I know He loves and accepts me, just the way I am. What has changed is I can no longer share and rejoice with the community of others that I was once part of. The church family were everything to me. That has gone now and I miss them.

Both you and Beatrice are on the autism spectrum. Do you think your autism has affected how you’ve responded to the challenges that come with transitioning?

Oh most definitely. I have a number of sensory issues that I live with. Some of these have increased. For example, if you sit to pee the urine smell probably isn’t overwhelming. But, when you stand to pee the urine smell gets right up your nose. I very much enjoy standing to pee but I dislike the way it smells. It’s a similar story with body odour. Mine became stronger as a male, but, it seems to have calmed down now. I coped well with the changes to my physical body and can look in the mirror now… I avoided this before. My whole body is now available to Beatrice whereas there were parts that were out of bounds before. We also think that being autistic has helped us in other ways because we tend to be literal, black & white in our thinking. That was then, this is now, kind of stuff. Our loyalty to one another probably has its roots in autism too.

Was there an ‘aha!’ moment when you realised that you were transgender? Or is it something you have always been aware of?

For me there definitely was an ‘aha’ moment when the light went on. I really was surprised and shocked when this happened. I did not know I was transgender before…. I knew I always liked ‘boys’ stuff growing up and was much more at home in the male world, so to speak. My mates were male more than female and I didn’t think or act like females do. However, I’m very maternal and loved being Mum to my kids. Joining the dots has probably been delayed due to our autism, but, once that light went on, there was no turning back.

You have three grown-up children, and grandchildren too. How did they react when you told them about transitioning?

My children were not at all surprised and, even though I’m sure it’s tough on them, they are with me 100%. My kids are very accepting of difference, despite their own autism, and we just get on with the job of being a family. It’s the same with the grand-kids. They love us for who we are… not Nanna anymore but Grandpa Wenn.

Transitioning Together is out now – click here for more information.

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