Peter Vermeulen, PhD

Peter has worked as an autism consultant/lecturer and trainer at Autisme Centraal, Belgium since 1998. 

He holds a Master in Psychology and Pedagogical Sciences at the University of Leuven, Belgium (1985) and PhD in Psychology and Pedagogical Sciences at the University of Leiden, The Netherlands (2002).

From 1987 till 1998 working for the Flemish Autism Association, first as home trainer for families with a child with autism, later as director of the home training centre and finally as trainer / lecturer.

He is also Chief Editor of "Autisme Centraal", bi-monthly magazine of Autisme Centraal and a member of the editorial board of the Belgian-Dutch Journal of Special Education, Child Psychiatry and Clinical Psychology.

Peter has published more than 15 books and several articles on autism. His book, "Autism as context blindness" (2012), won several awards in the USA.

Peter will present on Day 1 in Symposium 3 - Transforming Life After Sschool; and on Day 2 in Symposium 8 - Transforming Employment and Adulthood. 

Symposium 3

ASD and relationships: clarifying the challenge and the challenge of clarifying: Engaging in relationships, especially intimate relationships, is a tough challenge for people with an autism spectrum disorder. Many of the relational skills and knowledge that neurotypical people seem to develop effortlessly and spontaneously are clogged by the way an autistic brain understands the world. Most people with ASD have a desire to relate to other people and many of them want to have friends or an intimate relationship. Unfortunately, for people with ASD, the road from desire to successful relationships is often strewn with obstacles. In my presentation, I explore the challenges people with ASD are facing when building relationships and how we can help people with ASD to navigate in relationships. We will describe how many of these challenges are linked to the specific way of information processing in the autistic brain, which we call context blindness. Building upon this knowledge we describe some general principles for helping people with ASD to understand and build relationships. In particular, we will focus on the importance of clarifying for people with ASD the abstract, vague and context sensitive rules and ingredients of relationships. We will briefly present a new psycho-education program that we developed for youngsters and adults with ASD.

Also presenting in Symposium 3:
Assoc Prof Amanda Richdale
Assoc Prof Robyn Young.

Symposium 8

The outcome of ASD in adulthood: time to make a U-turn in our approach and focus on well-being as a desired outcome: Emotional well-being or happiness has received little attention in the field of autism spectrum disorders. Studies of the effects of certain treatments and so called outcome research, for instance, rarely take emotional well-being as a desired outcome. And when the focus is on well-being, it is often from a negative perspective, namely the lack of well-being in autism. But what if we would make a U-turn in our approach and change from a negative definition of wellbeing (absence of distress) towards a more positive one (presence of happiness)? Based on the principles of positive psychology, we argue for this change in focus and we suggest that instead of concentrating on the lack of emotional well-being in adults with autism, we should develop strategies to facilitate their feeling of happiness. In the presentation we will introduce some strategies that aim at increasing quality of life and emotional well-being in adults with ASD.

Also presenting in Symposium 8:
Thorkill Sonne
Mitch Levy Michael Fieldhouse.