A little bit more than 20 years ago, I developed a psycho-education program for children and youngsters on the autism spectrum, named ‘I am Special’ It was translated into more than 10 different languages and it is being used all over the world – also in Norvegian: Jeg er noe helt spesielt!
Times have changed. We are looking at autism in a quite different way than we did 20 years ago. We made the move from a purely deficit-based conceptualization of autism towards a neurodiversity perspective where we see neurological differences as a positive thing.
Despite having a brain that is differently wired, autistic individuals have the same human needs as any other human being. Now the time has come to focus on the similarities and not only the differences between autistic and non-autistic people. We are all a bit special! A shift towards a more positive approach with a focus on well-being, and not just the lack of well-being, is happening. This will also affect how we help autistic people to understand themselves and their needs.
Based on this evolution, we made a shift from ‘I am Special’ to ‘H.A.P.P.Y.’, a new psycho-education program focusing on happiness and well-being in autism. The H.A.P.P.Y. program results in an individualized well-being plan for an autistic child, youngster or adult, based on 10 evidence-based well-being strategies. These strategies are made autism friendly in the program. H.A.P.P.Y. is where autistic thinking and well-being meet each other.
In this presentation I will describe the shift in focus towards well-being and the backgrounds and content of the H.A.P.P.Y.-program.
This is a joint presentation by ARI and the World Autism Organisation.
Peter Vermeulen, PhD, in Psychology and Clinical Educational Sciences, has more than 35 years of experience in the field of autism. Founder of “Autism in Context”, where autism is understood in context. Peter is an internationally respected lecturer/trainer and he presents all over the world. Peter wrote more than 15 books and several articles on autism, some of them translated into more than 10 languages. For his +30 years of work in the field of autism, he received in 2019 a Lifetime Achievement Award.