I’m not saying that I necessarily felt suicidal. My brain, though muddled and wallowing in a kind of neuro-treacle, was keen that I carry on getting up each morning, arranging a series of time-consuming activities during the day, and then settling down for a troubled repose in the evening. My brain was clearly all for keeping calm and carrying on.
But when my GP referred me for some cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) through IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) he asked me, with great emphasis, three times, about suicide. And I am an accommodating person at best, so I said yes. Probably.
CBT itself is, of course, a human construct. The questionnaires are framed in representative chunks of human experience, delineating the paradigms of the lived experiences of the typical depressive. This must have been in a time when paper and borrowed Biro was the thing, because now you can get your instant diagnosis online. I’ll just have the generalised anxiety today, thank you.
In a suitably rewarding trajectory, I went from suicidal to, well, not-suicidal, within the strict cycle of the programme. I deserved a badge. I got a weak tea in a church hall in damp suburban street in Sheffield.
But this got me thinking. Having taken on the mantle of spreading the good word about PAGS, a new, research-based assessment and goal-setting tool, for the neurodiverse 5–25 year old, I reflected on my own experience of being assessed and quantified and tracked. Extrapolating from a sample of one (and only one person, after all, can live my life) I came to the conclusion that such an assessment – maybe even all assessments – need, in order to contain even a hint of probity, reliability and depth, to:
- Recognise the incredible complexity and spikey diversity of every individual – that between ASD and not-ASD there exists a universe of unpigeonhole-able shifting states;
- Be simple to use, yet generate a panoply of interwoven data suitable for analysis and interpretation;
- Save time, rather than create more work;
- Avoid simple labels, assumptions, either/or situations and limiting diagnoses
- Use a shared, agreed set of linguistics to promote strategies and empower the user to achieve their best
- Allow for flexible timescales – not the six-weeks-or-nothing structure
Now at this point, you might be thinking that I am merely peddling a product. And you’d be right. But I’d like you to at least acknowledge that I am a practitioner, a user, and a convert. After a long search over many decades (three), and an attempt to devise my own mathematical matrix of assessment, I’ve found nirvana, something which covers 1 to 6, and probably 7 and 8 as well. So, like any convert, I’m now motivated beyond rationality to spread the good word.
I could be wrong. I often am. I am an ex- SENCO (recovering), headteacher, researcher, and poet. But I’m also an unstable individual, somewhere between suicidal and not-suicidal. Your challenge is to check the source, and prove me wrong.
Dave is an education consultant, associate partner for PAGS, and expert in seasoning logs.