Interview between Speaker 1 (Meg) and Speaker 2 (Rachel Dorsey)


[Introductory music]

Welcome to the Two Sides of the Spectrum Podcast. A place where we explore research, amplify autistic voices, and change the way we think about autism in life, and in our professional therapy practices. I’m Meg Proctor from 


Meg:       Before we get started, a quick note on language. On this podcast, you’ll hear me and many of my guests use identity-affirming language. That means we say, ‘autistic person,’ rather than, ‘person with autism’. What we’re hearing from the majority of autistic adults is that autism is a part of their identity that they don’t need to be separated from. Autism is not a disease, it’s a different way of thinking and learning. Join me in embracing the word ‘autistic’ to help reduce the stigma.


Welcome to Episode 35 with Rachel Dorsey. Rachel is an autistic speech language pathologist who works with autistic kids and parents. She also consults with therapists through her business, which is called Rachael Dorsey: Autistic SLP. Rachel is also the creator of a new Learn, Play, Thrive course, ‘Goal Writing for Autistic Students: A Neurodiversity-Affirming Approach’. Today on the podcast, Rachel and I zoom out to talk about what ‘neurodiversity’ and ‘neurodiversity-affirming practices’ even mean. Rachael gives us the inside scoop on her own journey towards strengths-based practice. And I think this will be so familiar to many of us who are finding that it takes constant reflection, and revision, and courage, and honesty to be the practitioners who we want to become. And I find it comforting to know that even Rachel, who is so insightful and who we turn to to learn about neurodiversity-affirming practices from, that this isn’t where she’s starting. This is just a path that she’s on too. In this talk, Rachel gives us some pointers for how and why we can write neurodiversity-affirming goals, and we even dive into some frequently asked questions about her course at the very end of the podcast. I learn something new every single time I talk to Rachel and I am so excited to share this talk with you. Here’s the interview.


Hi, Rachel! Welcome back to the podcast.


Rachel:   Hi Meg, thanks for having me again.


Meg:       It is always such a pleasure to talk to you. I always learn something new. And I’m really excited, because today we’re going to zoom out a little bit, take a step back and talk about the neurodiversity paradigm, which is a mouthful. [Laughs] But this is something we’ve been talking about all along here on the podcast, but we’ve never really defined. So, let’s just start there. What does ‘neurodiversity’ and ‘neurodiversity-affirming’ even mean?


Rachel:   Yeah. So, those are great questions. And I like to explain them kind of as straightforward as possible to prevent confusion, because I feel like there’s a lot of misinformation out there. So, neurodiversity itself is just that brains are different. And that can be a result of environmental factors, as well as genetic factors, and create just different brains. And we know this, that’s pretty indisputable. And then, the neurodiversity paradigm builds upon that concept of neurodiversity; that yes, like all brains are different due to a variety of factors, and brains that are particularly different or diverge from the mean — the typical brain, more so — those brains aren’t inherently bad or disordered, or there’s no ethical value assigned to those brains.


Meg:       I love that. So, we’re explicitly moving away from this pathologizing model of ‘This is a neurotypical brain. This is a brain with autism spectrum disorder’. And you’re saying this is a brain that diverges from the neurotypical brain, and that is value neutral.


Rachel:   Right. And I do want to be clear that that doesn’t necessarily mean that brains that diverge from the mean don’t encounter hardships. Like, the concept of having disability is completely in line with having a brain that diverges from the mean, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the brains themselves are bad or deficient in any way. It’s largely a societally-based hardships imposed on people with different brains that creates the disability.


Meg:       Okay. So, there are neurotypical brains, brains that are the most common type of — the most common neuro type. And then there are people that diverged from that, neurodivergent people, who are disabled by culture, society, contexts; not by their neurodivergence, but because of the way that our world is set up to work well for neurotypical people. And our culture, our environment, our contexts are disabling to neurodivergent people.


Rachel:   Can I — yes. So, largely, can I clarify a little bit on the concept of neurotypicality?


Meg:       Yeah.

Rachel:   So, the use of the word ‘neurotypical’, it’s largely used to differentiate between being, for example, autistic or non-autistic, or an ADHD-er or non-ADHD-er, or dyslexic or non-dyslexic, where the neurotypical just takes the place of not having whatever neurodivergency is you’re discussing. And so, I question if like a true neurotypicality really exists. I think it’s more — it’s mostly a contrastive sort of a terminology.


Meg:       That makes sense. And I want to make a distinction here so that nobody interprets this as the offensive phrase, “We’re all a little autistic,” right? Like, you’re not saying we’re all a little neurodivergent, because that’s not how we use the word neurodivergent.


Rachel:   No, not at all. Yeah, I’m in complete agreement with that. I strongly dislike the, “We’re all a little autistic,” and it’s equally as offensive to say, “We’re all a little neurodivergent,” because that’s taking the terminology and not having a good understanding of it, and then just sort of using it to invalidate someone’s experiences.


Meg:       Yeah, it is. It is. I appreciate all of your clarifications. I’ve had to learn to start being thoughtful of when I say non-autistic versus when I say neurotypical.


Rachel:   Yeah, I’ve been — same with me.


Meg:       Because often, I mean non-autistic. And a person who has ADHD or dyslexia who is not autistic still has trouble taking the perspective of an autistic person.


Rachel:   Right. I mean, simul — I’ve also been trying to be more thoughtful about when I say neurotypical versus non-autistic, or non-ADHD-er, or whatever. So, yeah, I’m still like working towards that.


Meg:       All right. So, we have a good understanding of what neurodiversity means as a concept, what neurodivergent means, what neurotypical means. And the other term that people use, and that I have in the past used incorrectly, grammatically as well, is ‘neurodiverse’. Which ‘diverse’ means a group of people who are different, right? So, a neurodiverse group of people would be some people who are neurodivergent, possibly some who are neurotypical, and people who have different neurodivergencies. You wouldn’t be a neurodiverse person, just like you wouldn’t be a diverse person. But you could have a neurodiverse group, meaning people with different neuro types. Is that how you would use that word as well.


Rachel:   Now. Now that’s how I use that word. But I mean, like you, I also have made grammatical mistakes in the past with it, because spoken word is something that I sometimes — I am a better writer than I am speaker, and it took a lot of practice and constant reminders for me to shift how I use language. Even me, being a part of the autistic community, had that learning curve as well.


Meg:       Yeah. I could geek out on grammar all day, but I want to shift back to paradigms. So, tell me how it looks different to view autism through the neurodiversity lens?


Rachel:   Yeah, so I’ll give a quick overview of like a traditional sort of a lens, which is the — like the DSM-5, so it’s a lot of… A lot of deficits. It’s just a — it’s just a big long list of deficits in behavioral observations from a someone who doesn’t know the inner experience of the person that they’re evaluating. Viewing autism through a neurodiversity-affirming lens or through the neurodiversity paradigm really means that you understand the differences in autistic cognitive processing, in linguistic processing, in how the sensory world impacts the autistic experience, differences in executive functioning, and really how — and differences in how social connections are formed. And in addition to all of that, understanding how all of these things affect each other, and as well as the environment plays a huge perspective as well. And so, all of these things can be very different, depending on a variety of factors. So, I think that the traditional kind of deficit-driven look at autism is a really superficial lens. And the neurodiversity paradigm requires a much deeper insight into what autism truly is through like all the things I previously mentioned.


Meg:       This is really important. So, you’re not just shifting your language and saying ‘differences’ instead of ‘deficits’ in this token way. It’s not that the problem with the DSM is it says deficits in this, deficits in that, and we can just use the same definition and just change ‘deficits’ to ‘differences’ and now we’re being neurodiversity-affirming. What you’re saying is we have to actually work very hard if we’re not autistic to try and learn about and from autistic people about how they think, and learn, and experience the world. And there’s going to be things that come easier for autistic people, things that are hard for autistic people, ways in which being autistic makes it hard to do things in certain contexts, and other types of contexts that support autistic people better. But it really is a much deeper understanding, not a superficial change in language.


Rachel:   Right. And while I and I’m sure many other autistic people appreciate a shift in language, a shift into defaulting towards identity-first language, or a shift in saying differences, or a shift towards, you know, even like, I mean, it’s important to outline the strengths that a client has as opposed to just narrowing in on what they can’t do. And I would say that those are elements of a neurodiversity-affirming practice, but it really goes beyond that.


Meg:       I’ll give an example. In my course, I have a section on autism learning styles. And there were some pieces of it that I had been able to dive deep on, like talking about the double empathy problem and executive function differences. And there were other pieces that I made this token surface level change, and I just said things like, “Autistic people have differences in social skills and differences in joint attention.” And all I knew was not to say deficits, but I really didn’t know exactly what I was talking about. And you went through it, and people who want to just hear about this piece should listen to your last podcast episode on this podcast, which was Episode 26. And said, “You know, Meg, you don’t have it exactly right. It’s not that autistic people just kind of don’t use joint attention as much, it’s that it looks very different. And neurotypical people miss it, and misunderstand it, and miss-categorize it.”


Rachel:   Yeah. Joint attention, specifically, it requires a really — it requires a really careful eye to pick up on the more subtle aspects of autistic joint attention. It also, I would say, requires a presumption of competence, because we’re not, as providers, as clinicians, not going to always be able to catch the really subtle joint attention. Or perhaps the autistic student or client hears, is processing it, but is just sort of focusing in, or like kind of stimming on something but they’re hearing and processing it. And there’s no like, I mean, even subtle change. And I think that there’s a big overlap in my mind between autistic joint attention, the subtleties, and then presuming competence, understanding that our autistic students have the ability to learn.


Meg:       Yeah. It really highlights the importance of being informed by autistic voices. Because given the double empathy problem, meaning neurotypical, non-autistic people have a very hard time imagining the perspective of an autistic person. That’s real. There’s no way I could look at that situation and come up with the right hypothesis about what might be going on. And I’ve been learning these things from you and from others.


Rachel:   Well, I want to say that I’ve, for some things, about autistic joint attention, I take from like my own experiences and talking to other autistic adults, but I also really try to listen to the non-speaking autistic community, the AAC-using autistic community. The Facebook group, like ‘Ask Me, I’m an AAC user!’ has been really, really critical in my understanding of presumption of competence, and how more subtle displays of joint attention can look. And then through, you know, clinical practice, I’m like, you know, that yes, the non-speaking AAC-using autistic community is absolutely correct on it.


Meg:       Yeah, they’re the experts.


Rachel:   They’re the experts on their own experience.


Meg:       Yeah. We have Episode 9 of the podcast with Ido Kadar, who is a non-speaking AAC user that people can go back to and listen if they missed it. So, I want to talk about how this impacts practice. You talk about neurodiversity-affirming practices quite a bit in your work. And let’s start with the ‘Why’. Why is this so important?


Rachel:   It’s really important because it guides autistic clients, students, chil — I mean children growing into adolescence and adults into feeling like self-actualized and having a positive autistic identity. I also think about all the barriers that autistic people face in their life, and with how society views autistic people, how schools — an either well-intentioned or maybe not so well-intentioned school team who’s overworked and underpaid — treats autistic people and their families. And I also see the role of neurodiversity-affirming practices as being protective of helping autistic people know their worth and be able to protect themselves. But it shouldn’t only be on the autistic person, right. There should also be education towards the, you know, the school or society, and people are also working on that as well. But yeah, that’s how I think of it in my head.


Meg:       Yeah, this is so important that we keep coming back to it over and over again on the podcast, that the most important piece of this is a person’s own self-identity, self-worth, their experience of themselves. Which wasn’t on my radar before I started doing this podcast, actually, and I think that’s true for a lot of people. And the first time we hear it, we go, “Oh, my gosh. Of course. Of course that’s the most important thing. What can I do differently?” And, Rachel, I want to talk about your own journey. Is this where you started as a new SLP? Or what does your journey look like towards neurodiversity-affirming practices?


Rachel:   Yeah, so, this absolutely — absolutely was not. If you would have told me when I exited grad school, this is what I’d be doing now, I would have not believed you at all. So, I finished graduate school with a really deficit-driven view of autism. And started, you know, my first — especially my first year, all I wanted to do was like, basically survive as a speech therapist. I did early intervention and pre-K community services exclusively that first year, and just tried to survive and basically do what my supervisor was telling me to do. And my supervisor also had an extremely deficit driven view of autism. I would say more — even more like pathologizing than most, kind of going into the holistic medicine cure of autism sort of viewpoints. And, you know, talking to me about that and not believing that autism should even be considered until children are eight or nine once they get enough therapy. And so, like, that was what I was working with as my supervisor. And she also believed in restraining clients, the very young children.


Meg:       Rachel, this is awful. So, this is the place where a completely pathologizing view of autism meets pseudoscience, meets lack of respect for the basic rights of a person to autonomy over their bodies.


Rachel:   Yes. It was — it was very bad and I knew that it was wrong. But then, as I later found out, as an autistic person I was eager to please her because that is my kind of trauma-based response of people pleaser; a fawner. So, you have that mixed in. So, if I questioned something that she did, it would not be good for me. So, coming from there, I just started slowly doing intuitively what felt right. Slowly and intuitively stopped hand-over-handing, having my back behind clients, and like making them do a neurotypical play or ‘functional play’ as I called it at the time, started following their leads more. There are some times that I shifted what I did and I’m like, “Yes, this is — I got it right.” Like for example, I was a year in. I was still working for her but I was seeing a client who was, I believe, three-ish and really liked Sophia the First, the Disney show. And I’m like, I said to my supervisor, “Why are we working on this other stuff? Like, she loves Sophia the First. Let’s somehow incorporate that into care,” and my supervisor was like, “Well, Rachel. That’s not gonna help this client fit into society.” And so, then the next session, I, thinking I was like doing like the best thing, I brought in a Sofia the First picture on to a laminated Velcro on a piece of paper, and turned Sofia the First on to the TV. And then like, you know, I was doing pics, like having a child give the picture to the grandmother. And I’m like, “Yes. Got it. Like, this feels right.” 


And then towards the end of seeing the child, the mother was showing me this photograph of how they went to Disney World and the child was hugging — was like, so much autistic joy — Sophia the First mascot. And the mother was like crying. Oh, yeah, I’m gonna start to cry. And it’s like, oh, my gosh. I am — and it dawned on me. Like, I am using this thing that this child loves so, so much and has just so much — I didn’t have a term for autistic joy at the time — but it created so much joy, and using it to manipulate… Like she has to earn it, and I’m using it in a really manipulative way. But things like that were like, I thought I was doing the right thing. I thought I was going forward and then it turns out, no, wait. Still not there. Things like that happened and continued to happen.

I mean, there are times where now, I had a session with a autistic seven-year-old child, where I knew from the beginning of seeing him — and I was seeing him in clinic, not in the schools. And I knew from the beginning of seeing him that he didn’t really have friends. Because I asked him at the beginning, I mentioned friends, and it was kind of a no response despite him being very, very talkative. And I wanted to — this was only about a month ago — I wanted to help him with gaining friends. But I mean, I should have talked to the parents because what I did is I, once again, in the session brought up friendship. And then he got — it was kind of a like, no response. He got — I could tell just by the no response that me even bringing that up had affected him emotionally. And so, then I reflected. I mean, I did the wrong thing. I made him feel self-conscious, I made him feel bad about this thing that he feels that he’s bad at. I brought it to the center, and I, you know, I shouldn’t have — I shouldn’t have done that.


Meg:       Reflecting back on that, what would you do instead?


Rachel:   I would have probably — I mean, I was trying to gain just more information because in my sessions with him, I was working on building the communication of regulatory state with him in sessions. And he was a Gestalt language processor in the later stages, and so I was building on that. And I would have really loved to work on helping him form true social connections. But I needed some place to start, and I thought that by asking the child I would get some place to start. So, I probably should have just asked parents or perhaps the school team what was, you know, what things were like there instead of directly asking the child.


Meg:       Yeah, it goes back to his sense of self and his self-identity. I hear this one word come up over and over again in your story, and it’s ‘reflect’ — that you reflected on what you did. That you didn’t start in this place of knowing the exact right thing to do in every situation, nor are you or any of us there now. But I want to go back to your first story because you listened to yourself and your intuition about deeper concepts like a child’s right to autonomy and kindness and tried to follow that in your session. But even that led you to this place that when you reflected, you said, “You know what, this is still not aligned with my values.” And I think a lot of us really relate to that. We say, “Oh, we should build from interests. Okay, I’ll have her do this thing to get her interest,” like you were describing.


Rachel:   Yeah.


Meg:       And then you hear somebody maybe call you out on it, right? Like, you had this internal voice that told you that doesn’t feel right, I am using autistic joy as a carrot and dangling it from a stick. A lot of us don’t have that insight. We see on Instagram or here on a podcast that dangling somebody’s interest as the ‘then’ in a ‘first, then’ isn’t affirming.


Rachel:   Mm-hmm.


Meg:       And we have to reflect again. “Okay, in what ways am I doing that? What impact does that have? I need to learn what to do instead” And it’s just this continual process.


Rachel:   Yeah, it is. It really is. Yeah.


Meg:       And it takes some courage too, because you were coming up against the culture of a clinic when you started.


Rachel:   It was my supervisor, and me. So, I was the number two. If I left, then — I won’t go into what happened when I left.


Meg:       Well, I just, I have to remind people to be brave all the time. In graduate school, they told us to be change agents. If we tried to be change agents in graduate school, they told us to do it shush, do it somewhere else. Nobody wants you to be a change agent in their space.


Rachel:   Yeah. So, I have a blog post that really, like really, ironically, like narrows in on this topic. But it starts out really kind of saying what you just said, how we’re in graduate school and, you know, even with some supervisors, as clinicians, we’re encouraged to be critical thinkers. But the critical thinking is discouraged as soon as you start to question the very people who are encouraging you to be critical thinkers.


Meg:       Yes. Yes. Absolutely. Rachel, I want to shift a little bit. On Episode 12 of the podcast, we talk about strengths-based documentation and goals. And people really latched on to that and were interested and wanted to learn more. I’ve had a lot of people ask me, “Can you write a course on strengths-based goal writing?” And I’m like, “No, I literally cannot.” I do not have the expertise to teach you a course on strengths-based goal writing. But you, Rachel Dorsey, recently wrote an incredible course, ‘Goal Writing for Autistic Students’ that’s now for sale and registered for ASHA and AOTA CEU’s at Learn, Play, Thrive. Tell me, why did you pick goal writing for your course topic? What’s the importance of neurodiversity-affirming goals, specifically, in our work?


Rachel:   Yeah, so I’ll start out with why I chose the topic, because it’s kind of anti-climactic but it leads into greater things. I chose that because when I was kind of first starting my consultancy, I had an Instagram question like, “What do you want to learn more about?” And the top two things were ‘goal writing’ and ‘social skills’ — and I’m doing air quotes, right, on ‘social skills therapy’. And in my head, I’m like, “Okay. So, logically, before you can even get to helping students form true social connections, there’s got to be a goal for it.” So, then after the last 10 months, really, but I mean, especially in the beginning, as I was really concentrating heavily on the role of goals in the schools, and the role of the goals that I write, and where my own past goals fell short, and how I write goals now, I was able to see the role of goals within the schools.

I mean, I studied the role of goals within the schools and the role of the goals within IEP’s, but then the role of goals for autistic students within IEP’s and the schools. And what I realized was that a lot of traditional goal writing is focused on — I mean, to be honest, on neuro-normalcy. And to be even more honest, on the student, the autistic student not being a classroom disruption. And I, when writing goals through that lens, the goals that you write are going to be behaviorally-based. They’re going to be based on, I mean, focusing on masking. They’re going to be based on neurotypical childhood milestones, that without an under — really, an understanding of autism and autistic child development, they’re going to be based on not what the student wants at all. So, yeah, the course really focuses on how to not do those things. I mean, I discuss all the problems with traditional goal writing, and then go on to discuss elements of strengths-based goal writing, as well as an outline. And then the course walks you through that outline of strengths-based goal writing through a series of case studies.


Meg:       I love that. We talked to in the last episode about both of those things, actually, the interview with Rachel Coley about how schools are inherently oppressive places, often, that are so focused on compliance and making sure that you will be a productive profit-generating worker in the future.


Rachel:   Yep.


Meg:       And you layer on to this, their investment in neurotypicality. And like you said, ‘not being disruptive’ quote, not creating any problems for the culture of compliance and neurotypicality that exists in schools. I am actually really glad we’re having this conversation for a lot of reasons, but I never asked you before why you focused on schools. And now that you’re explaining this, it makes a lot of sense. You took sort of the hardest topic and then you put it in the hardest context, so people in easier context can still learn about strengths-based versus traditional goal writing, but you’re explicitly talking about — and I know in your course, you say, okay, this therapist is working in a 40-hour-a-week ABA program trying to write neurodiversity-affirming goals, what does it look like there.


Rachel:   Yeah. Yeah, so the — yeah, the course takes a hard topic, goals, which everyone, a lot of people feel like they aren’t great at. And it’s hard in the schools, which is, like you said, it can be a very oppressive system. And then on top of that, the course narrows in on hard things to navigate. Like you said, the having to write goals for a autistic child who is in a 40-hour-per-week ABA program. Like, how do you how do you write a neurodiversity-affirming goal in that context? Can you, even? What if the parents don’t want their 17-year-old autistic child, nearly adult, to know that they’re autistic? How are you supposed to work on self-advocacy, even on perspective-taking and differences between autistic culture and neurotypical or non-autistic culture and communication styles? I mean, times where the parents really narrow in on, “We want spoken oral speech,” and like, what do you do then? Times where there’s evidence of abuse on a client, and what would you do then? And so, a lot of difficult topics and recommendations on how to how to navigate those in a practical way because no one wants to get fired from your job for being so radically neurodiversity-affirming, throwing it in everybody’s faces, that’s just going to make everyone else feel defensive. So, how to do it in a way that’s ethical, practical, and is more likely to have the team be on board.


Meg:       Yeah, that is so useful, because these are real barriers that people face and have no idea, often, how to navigate. You mentioned that one of the shifts that you’re encouraging people to take when you teach on goal writing is looking at traditional goals versus strengths-based goals, and why those differences matter, like we talked about today on the podcast. What other shifts are you challenging people to make when you try to teach a new paradigm of goal writing?


Rachel:   Yeah, a big one is the role of accommodations and modifications, even within goal writing. So, accommodations and modifications don’t have data kept on them. They’re just there. And it can specify when those can be used in the IEP. It could say — or are used, you know, daily. But there’s not really accountability for that. And I advocate for embedding at least parts of accommodations and cueing it into the goal because it puts the accommodation within a — well, it tells you exactly how the accommodation or a way that accommodation can be used to help this child succeed. But it also serves to protect the student by including in the goal, like ‘given unrestricted access to AAC’ and we know that so many students are just like — their AAC device is left in the speech therapy room or like, left at home. It protects the student. It also makes it clear that the therapist can’t do their job, they can’t work towards these goals, without this essential component. So, it really safeguards the therapist and the client or the student


Meg:       I love this language of ‘given unrestricted access to’ — insert support child needs to be successful — and then the goal. That’s great. Okay, I’m going to quickly ask you some of the frequently asked questions I’m getting from people about your course while I have you here with me, and then we’re gonna get to your final takeaway. So, is your course for SLP’s and OT’s?


Rachel:   It is. Yeah, it is. Jess Miles, OT, who’s an amazing multiple-neurodivergent OT I consulted with and contributed heavily to the course, to specifically — some of the goals already were appropriate for OT’s that I first provided — but also inserted in there are some fine motor goals, and hygiene, or more occupation-based goals that are outside of my scope of practice.


Meg:       I love it. After, I looked through the additions that Jess had made. Rachel, I just want to confirm in case people ask me, I didn’t see any handwriting goals. Is that right? And you were like, “I don’t think handwriting goals are usually strengths-based for autistic students,” which is a great answer. A great heads up to OT’s. But I think OT’s already know how to write their handwriting goals if they have the right hand writing goals, and you are showing them hey, here’s what else you can do, if you know how to do it.


Rachel:   Yeah, exactly.


Meg:       And is it only for school-based providers?


Rachel:   No. So, the — I mean, we outlined in the podcast like why I chose the schools, but it has a lot of applications for therapists working with autistic clients, really, in all — or pediatric autistic clients — in all settings. I know that some of the people that piloted the course don’t work in schools. And they, I mean, in their testimonials, they found the course to be very applicable to their employment as well.


Meg:       Yeah, there’s a little bit of content about IEP’s and things that are specific to schools. But the framework and the case studies, I think, are relevant to any setting, pre-school through adolescence. Do you teach —


Rachel:   Yeah, the only — I was just going to say that the only — the Module One, which is I think only 25 or 30 minutes, is the only one that does narrow in on like the Common Core State Standards and IEP’s, but the rest is pretty applicable to every setting.


Meg:       And is this a course for people who are looking for an introductory course about the mechanics, the basic mechanics of how to write a goal? Is that what you teach?


Rachel:   I wouldn’t say that the courses is introductory. I would say this is a course for someone who has been writing goals or knows mechanics of writing goals, and I build upon that. I propose some ways to build on that structure that we’re already familiar with.


Meg:       And final question about your course. What transformation can people expect to experience from taking it?


Rachel:   Yeah. So, people can expect to walk away from the course feeling empowered to help their autistic students, and really, to take on the battle that can be goal writing, specifically in in the school setting, but really any setting.


Meg:       I love that. And we’re already hearing in the feedback from the pilot students that they are feeling reenergized, they’re feeling excited, they’re feeling ready to tackle goal writing using this new framework that you teach. All right. Rachel, of everything that we’ve talked about today, what’s the biggest takeaway that you hope listeners will walk away with?


Rachel:   I would love for listeners to walk away knowing that writing goals that truly help autistic students within a neurotypically-based society and a difficult school system is possible, but it requires a shift in thinking about autism and the role that goals serve for those students. And I would love for listeners to ask themselves if like, do we want autistic people to just fit in and be normal? Or do we want them to feel self-actualized? Take it back to that concept that we keep talking about?


Meg:       Mic drop. I love that, Rachel. Thank you so much. So, you can find Rachel’s course ‘Goal Writing for Autistic Students’ at And where else can people find you online, Rachel?


Rachel:   Yeah, so my website is I do consultations and just starting accepting clients in New York and Massachusetts. Recently became a full-time private practice, yay! My Instagram is — my Instagram handle is @RDorseySLP. And on Facebook, I’m just ‘Rachel Dorsey SLP: Autistic SLP, LLC’.


Meg:       I will link to all of that in the show notes as well. Thank you so much, Rachel.


Rachel:   Thank you, Meg.


[Ending note]

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