Peter Vermeulen Workshop

Autism and Happiness

In March 2015, Peter Vermeulen presented about happiness and wellbeing in autism to 200 ASD Nest program teachers, therapists, and administrators. 

In his discussion of Autism and Happiness, Vermeulen challenged educators to examine their goals for their students. He asked the participants: How often do you include references to happiness, pride, satisfaction, and physical and emotional wellbeing? He made the argument that our goals should not only focus on reducing negative feelings (stress, anxiety), but on increasing good-feelings.

The presentation raised many important ideas for staff: 

  • In addition to working on skill building, we need to focus on wellbeing, so that students are more equipped to cope with their challenges
  • We need for understanding happiness from an autistic perspective, and not impose neurotypical definitions of happiness onto our students
  • It's important to provide support for students while challenging them: "I don't need lower expectations; I need the same expectations with different support"
  • A "twin track approach" best supports students: 1) adapt the environment, and 2) teach the individual
  • Any strategy to support students with ASD begins with creating an autism friendly environment.
    Make it:
    • clear & understandable
    • predictable 
    • meaningful


Peter Vermeulen answers questions from the audience


An ongoing discussion about autism and happiness continues here!


Dr. Vermeulen first visited the ASD Nest in May 2012, when he introduced his theory of autism as context blindness. He had a profound effect on educators' understanding of autism, its characteristics and challenges. Work continues on incorporating his ideas into social therapeutic supports and classroom academic strategies. 

Peter Vermeulen presents about the twin track approach

Check out the twitter activity from the day: