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Autism and happiness: a seminar with Dr Peter Vermeulen


23/05/2019 09:30






About this event

Happiness has received little attention in the field of autism spectrum disorders. Outcome and effect studies, for instance, rarely take emotional wellbeing as a desired outcome. And when the focus is on wellbeing, it is often from a negative perspective, namely the lack of wellbeing and quality of life in autism.

It is time to take a u-turn in our approach and change from an exclusive focus on what makes autism so different, and from a negative, clinical and medical approach of happiness in people with autism (lack of distress) towards a shared and positive focus (we all want to be happy). In other words: let’s move from neurodiversity to neuroharmony.

Key learning:

  • Understanding that people with autism have the same needs as everyone, the most fundamental one: wellbeing
  • Knowing that wellbeing is more than having good feelings and that wellbeing or happiness involves both hedonic (a pleasant life) and eudemonic aspects (a meaningful life)
  • Identifying strategies to increase both the hedonic as the eudemonic aspects of wellbeing of people with autism
  • Taking a positive psychology perspective in the approach of autism
  • Reflecting on the extent to which your own practice focuses on positive strategies aiming at more wellbeing for your pupils/ students/clients with autism.

Facilitator bio

Dr Peter Vermeulen started his career in the field of autism by coincidence. He needed a job, there was a job vacancy at the Flemish autism society, Peter did the job interview, gave nothing but wrong answers about autism…and got the job.

Two weeks later, Peter participated in one of the first TEACCH trainings in Belgium delivered by Gary Mesibov. During that training, Peter realised he knew even less about autism than he thought. And that was the start of his never ending search for answers to all the relevant questions in autism that Peter receives from parents, professionals and people who have a autism diagnosis.

Since that job interview, more than 30 years have passed. Peter had the chance of meeting many hundreds of people with autism and working with them and the people around them. Peter learned a lot from all these people, but he also learned a lot from the autism teachers he was lucky to have. Amongst them: Gary Mesibov, Ina van Berckelaer-Onnes, Theo Peeters, Uta Frith, Lorna Wing.

With these 30 years of experience in autism spectrum disorders, many people have started to call Peter ‘an autism expert’.

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