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Challenging Myths about Autism – What Assessors and Therapists Need to Know: Lessons from the Neurodiversity Movement

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Presented by Joel Schwartz, PsyD, of Total Spectrum Counseling

Challenging Myths about Autism – What Assessors and Therapists Need to Know: Lessons from the Neurodiversity Movement

Recorded via Zoom on May 7, 2021

This programoffers 6.0 CEs for Psychologists, and 6.0 BBS California CEUs for LPCCs, LPSW, and LMFTs

Program Description:

As more and more people are coming out as autistic and openly participating in society, it is becoming abundantly clear that the last 60 years of scholarship on autism is woefully biased and inadequate. Most of what we know about autism comes from a deficits or medical model that centers non-autistic experience as normal and most functional. The result of this is that most knowledge, treatments, conceptualizations, and theories of autism are inherently ableist; practitioners see differences in functioning as less than human or disordered/deficient. When viewing autistic phenomena purely through a neurotypical lens, we develop a narrative of autism that is completely disconnected from the actual lived experience of autistic people. This continues a scientific tradition of centering majority experiences as normal in order to pathologize or minimize the importance of a minority experience.

In the last 15 years or so, autistic people and advocates have been developing a new paradigm to understand neurological brain differences. Borrowing from other social justice movements, the neurodiversity paradigm views conditions such as autism and ADHD as stemming from naturally occurring biodiversity. If we begin to understand autism from this perspective, including contributions from autistic researchers, autistic bloggers, autistic theoreticians, and autistic clinicians, we begin to develop an entirely different understanding of what autism actually is and how societal values, standard treatments, and modern hegemonies end up hurting and disabling autistic people more than they help. This program weds recent research on autism with lived experience of autistic people under a banner of neurodiversity to inform clinicians about how to best work with autistic people as assessors and therapists.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Participants will be able to describe theories, vocabulary and treatment options provided by the neurodiversity perspective.
  2. Participants will identify myths and stereotypes about autism.
  3. Participants will be able to describe autism from a lived-experience/neurodiversity perspective.
  4. Participants will be able to identify ways in which current treatment of autistic people can be further disabling or traumatizing, and learn alternatives that value the autistic experience.
  5. Participants will be able to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of various autism assessment methods.
  6. Participants will use actual case presentations to model neurodiversity affirming therapy and begin to immediately incorporate theories into their practices.

Professional Bio of Presenter Joel Schwartz, PsyD

Dr. Joel Schwartz is a licensed clinical psychologist (CA – PSY 29887, CO – PSY.0005190) practicing in Southern California with Total Spectrum Counseling. He specializes in therapy and testing for the misunderstood. Dr. Schwartz has been working in the Autism field since 2004, beginning as an ABA therapist, and continuing on to becoming Neurodiversity informed. His current practice is 75% autistic clients of all ages.

Dr. Schwartz grew up in Southern California. Dr. Schwartz attended UCLA as an undergrad where he conducted research in the field of neurolinguistics. From there, he attended Yeshiva University’s Ferkauf School of Clinical Psychology for his Master’s and Doctorate degree. He has worked in various settings including colleges, clinics, a federal prison, and residential treatment centers.


Kana, R. K., Uddin, L. Q., Kenet, T., Chugani, D., & Müller, R.A. (2014). Brain connectivity in autism. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 8, 349.

Kristensen, Z.E. & Broome, M.R. (2016). Autistic traits in an Internet sample of gender variant UK adults. International Journal of Transgenderism, 4, 234-245.

Milton, D.E.M. (2012) On the ontological status of autism: the ‘double empathy problem’, Disability & Society, 27, 883-887.

Registration and Fees:

General Admission (including CEs/Course Certificate): $200.00

Student Admission: $100.00

Current TCSPP Students, with school email address, can access discount codes for this program by registering here

Non-TCSPP Students, please email us at with your school email address to recieve a discount code for this program