How Can I Honor my Autistic Needs and Still Grow as an Autistic Entrepreneur?
I’m an autistic entrepreneur. I run an art therapy private practice that specializes in late identified autism. I get to meet with people who suspect they might be autistic or just learned they are autistic, and then walk them through the process of integrating and expanding their new autistic identity. As an art therapist, I also have the skills to help my clients navigate the trauma and layered complexity that comes with a lifetime of unidentified autism.
I know how hard it is to find an autistic therapist, and I value that it’s a service I can provide for other autistics. And yet, I know not everyone can access or afford the therapy I provided.
As an autistic individual, I have a limited energetic capacity. I can only meet with 2-3 clients a day before my energy is tapped out. I honor my energetic capacity by limiting my schedule to 2-3 clients on Monday-Thursday.
In order to see a small caseload of clients and still meet my financial obligations, I have to charge a fee that is out of reach for many people (I charge $300 for 80 minute meetings).
Even if I came into some money and I could lower my fee, I could still not see more therapy clients in a week. As an autistic individual, I need to honor my energetic capacities. To go beyond them would mean to compromise my own well being, which would run against the very thing I teach my clients. Furthermore, it would compromise the quality of therapy I provide. Who wants a therapist who is tired, not fully present, or mentally foggy?
So whether by time or money, I am limited.
AND YET, there are many things I want to share and talk about. I want to reach far more people, and to do it in ways that are sustainable for me.
Writing essays like this one is one of the ways I do that.
One new way I’m exploring doing it is a talk show. I’m lucky enough to have an autistic friend, Jennifer Alumbaugh, who is also a coach and entrepreneur. We talk for hours about how we can take care of ourselves (mentally, emotionally, physically, and financially) and still do expansive things with our lives that reach greater numbers of people.
We loved talking about this so much that we realized… maybe that talking could be a creative, sustainable way we can reach more people. And so, we’ve started a YouTube talk show called Autistics Unscripted (you can check out the trailer here).
Every show, we pick a topic and talk unscripted for 20 minutes. We’re our wild, weird selves… and yet very serious. We are serious about the conversations we want to have about what it means to be autistic and how we can live expansive, meaningful lives as people and entrepreneurs. We’re so serious that we even have timers so that we stick to our self-imposed structure.
We don’t claim to have all the answers, but we’re creatively exploring all the things we grapple with, and some of the things we’ve learned along the way.
Since we record the shows ahead of time when we have energy, it’s a way we can make our experiences and knowledge accessible to more people, without having to compromise our own wellbeing.
Neurotypical norms tell us to ignore our wellbeing. They say we have to “work harder” and “push through” and “be more consistent.” I say bullshit.
We can set our own autistic standards. I’m not talking about some benign set of norms for all autistic people. I mean personalized standards based on an autistic’s unique capacities, limitations, and dreams/hopes. Each person can define what they need and want for their lives.
We may not know how to meet all of our needs and wants, but once we determine what they are, we can turn to each other for support, creative brainstorming, and seeing new possibilities.
I never thought I’d do a talk show. And yet, here I am trying something new, hoping to expand in ways that honor my needs and dreams.
Thank you for reading. If you’d like to read more, sign up for my FUNletter. If you would like to explore your autistic identity with an autistic therapist, you can learn more about my therapy services here.