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New online self-compassion program for Autistic Adults

18 September 2023

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Throughout life, we all encounter moments of hardship, uncertainty and adversity. In these moments, we can be our own harshest critics, scrutinising our every move and berating ourselves for perceived failures. But what if, amidst life’s setbacks, we could treat ourselves with the same kindness that we offer others? What if we could be self-compassionate?

Becoming your own best friend

The central idea of self-compassion is learning to become your own best friend. It involves being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we are suffering, fail at something or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or being too self-critical.

Research tells us that self-compassion is not just a concept but a skill that can be learnt.

Dr Ru Ying Cai and Dr Chris Edwards from the Aspect Research Centre for Autism Practice (ARCAP) have developed the Aspect Self-Compassion Program for Autistic Adults (ASPAA), a free self-guided online program to support Autistic adults develop the self-compassion skills, regulate emotions and improve mental health.

ASPAA was co-produced with the support of Autistic advisors, Aiyah Membery, Anna Gould and Chris Day.

What participants say

The pilot study of ASPAA showed that after completing the program over five weeks, a group of Autistic adults became significantly more self-compassionate, had more positive emotions and higher psychological well-being, and had fewer negative emotions and fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression.

In these short videos, pilot study participants, Gene and Kara talk about how ASPAA benefited them.

How does ASPAA work?

ASPAA consists of five online modules that people work through at their own pace on their desktop computer or mobile device:

  • Module 1: Understanding self-compassion
  • Module 2: Benefits of self-compassion
  • Module 3: Mindfulness
  • Module 4: Finding your compassionate voice
  • Module 5: Accepting our experiences

Each module includes:

  • Information displayed in an interactive, easy-to-read format
  • Videos featuring Autistic people talking about their lived experiences
  • Points of reflection to help you relate to the content
  • Skills to practise.

In this video, Aiyah shares their experiences of self-criticism and how self-compassion helps.

Listen to Ru provide step-by-step instructions to performing a hand exercise.

Who can I ask for help?

You have the freedom to choose how you'd like to experience ASPAA. You can venture through independently and at your own pace or you may feel more comfortable doing the program with a trusted friend, family member of support worker by your side.

You may also engage in the program with the guidance of a trained healthcare professional. Their expertise can provide you with additional insights and personalised support, ensuring that your experience is tailored to your unique needs and circumstances.

We have developed a clinician version of ASPAA for clinicians, therapists, psychologists and mental health professionals to support Autistic people to become more self-compassionate. The clinician version includes additional instructions to allow clinicians to tailor the modules to best support their clients. It can be purchased from the Aspect online shop (A$49).

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