Changing hearts and minds around the globe

Reframing Autism & Aspergers

A new and progressive approach to autism therapy that empowers and enriches lives.
"When we are in a flight/fight or immobilised state, our executive functioning, cognitive function, connection to self, ability to connect with others all go offline. When we restore the body to a more comfortable state, we gain more access to ourselves and to our capacity to be in the world."

Holly Bridges
Humanity's path forward

Imagine Viewing Autism From A New Perspective

See the benefits of the autistic brain, while gaining new insights of how the body influences the mind, to harmonize the body, gain mental clarity and a calm baseline.

POLYVAGAL THEORY & AUTISM

The Polyvagal Theory is based on the work of Stephen W. Porges PhD. This theory is based on the vagus nerve and the way that it works within the body to help us interact with our world.

In a nutshell The Polyvagal Theory suggests that we have three main ways of operating: we can be in an open state where we can be calm and our social faculties (eyes, ears, face, voice, connection to heart), digestive and cognitive faculties, like executive functioning and working memory, are all online and available for us to use.

We can be in a flight/fight state where the body is focused on excitement or threat and a lot of our social and cognitive faculties are less online. Our taste buds, our digestion also turn off as we don’t need to be digesting food when we are about to run or fight. Energy is diverted and conserved for our safety. As the eyes and ears start to shift to the danger response, they are also less able to process a wider range of light and sound.

Lastly, in order to keep us safe, our body can go into an involuntary, immobilised state. For example, if a lion gets too close and you cannot run, fight or stop still in your tracks (freeze), the body has another option; it will take over to make so you are not interesting to the lion. Here you cannot move, make a noise, blink or feel. This is your best option for survival and often the lion finding you inanimate, will walk away. It is in this state that we start to disassociate and go into meltdown.

If the body has very early in life had an experience of threat – for whatever reason – it can get stuck in an immobilised state and think that this is normal. The person can grow up and be really smart, they can be all kinds of wonderful, but not have a lot of choice when it comes to how they are going to respond to the world because they are, more or less, in constant state of shut-down. So many people are living in a highly constricted body state.

When we look at autism, there are a lot of similarities. Communication, social connection, motor movement and control, taste and digestion issues, executive functioning, working memory, noise and light sensitivity all require the body to be in a good enough place. When we are immobilised (to a greater or lesser degree) we don’t have full access to all our faculties. When we are in a constant state of flight/fight or immobilise, our bodies can hurt; we can experience too much pain, or none at all. We can be hyper alert to everything, or have hypo-reactivity.  Ultimately, we don’t have full control.

To regain control, we need to teach the body how to be in a more parasympathetic (calm) state. It is virtually impossible to intellectually teach this to someone who does not have a good relationship with their body. This is why most of our therapies fail. When we teach the body how to be in a deeply relaxed state, we give people a chance to feel better, to make better decisions, self-regulate and live in a way that makes them happy, because they start to have a choice as to how their body behaves.

This is not about fixing autism. Autism is a genetic and environmental disposition that is multi- layered. While this is true, it is also true that autists often suffer from a variety of physical and mental issues that can be greatly assisted by helping the body to become more robust. When our body is more fully online, we have a greater capacity to live the life we want to lead.

BRAIN PLASTICITY & AUTISM

We used to think that the brain was fixed and not capable of change, but it’s not true. The brain is capable of changing – at any age – and when we work with the body as well as the mind, we have an even greater capacity to make positive changes.

People on the autism spectrum, whether they can speak; whether they are hypo or hyper reactive; whether they are five, fifteen or fifty are all intelligent and all have highly sophisticated nervous systems that are capable of learning.

When we work directly with the nervous system and avoid overly complicated social and cognitive tactics; when we work with transparency, clarity and have an inclusive and empowered approach -we can make magic happen. However, it’s not magic, it’s the brilliance of a brain/body system that wants to be free and when it is shown how, with kindness and grace, it has an amazing, adaptive capacity to grow and develop and let people be more of who they want to be.

BODY COGNITION

When we are stuck in an immobilised (hypo) state it can be hard to feel what is going on in your body because our interoceptive capacity has been turned off. When we are in a hyper- alert state, we can feel too much, or nothing. This skill of interoception is something that comes on and offline depending on what state we are in.

It’s not much use teaching people stuck in an immobilised state to cognitively try and work out what’s happening in their body – because they can’t! They can’t because the body and nervous system are not in the right physical state. We literally can’t feel things or ‘know’ things about our internal state when we are in shut-down. If we’ve always been in shut-down, we’ve probably never learnt to do this. 

When we teach the body how to be in a more relaxed and composed state, this function can come online. Body cognition is about learning how to listen to your body, how to respond to it with kindness and to build a relationship with it, so you can feel you have mastery over your system and get to live the life you want to live.

Shining the light

EXCITING NEW APPROACHES TO AUTISM THERAPY.

REFRAME YOUR THINKING AROUND AUTISM.

So much of traditional autism therapy is devoted to removing variances and aligning with the typical. What if this is a false benchmark against which we judge those on the autism spectrum? Reframing Autism is about celebrating diversity. It is tapping into the innate intelligence, brilliance and creativity of enhanced perception and then helping autistic people to make the most of their gifts. Diversity is the essence of brilliance and when we stifle it, in a neurotypical mould, it is the world’s loss. We need to adapt and create new, more appropriate and innovative ways to support this way of being. This video, along with Holly’s work in the US and Australia were seminal in the development of A.R.T. (Autism Reframe Technique).

sharing their story
NIC, GRAPHIC DESIGNER

“My personality and who I am is still very much there, it’s just without those things that were hindering my abilities and my confidence.”

DANNY RAEDE, CEO

“I’m able to process a lot more stuff, things just don’t bother me as much. I found it to be profoundly life-changing.”

JODIE, MOTHER OF MAX (5)

“After the second session he went out into the front yard and started kicking the ball around.”

MICHAEL, GOLD PROSPECTOR

“One thing I will absolutely say is I am glad I came here; it certainly was an experience and I will treasure it.”

MEGAN, MOTHER OF TEEN (16)

“My son is now calm, happy, and he is enjoying life more than he ever has, and in turn that has made our family calmer and happier.”

Fee Plumley

“After several years of searching for the Holy Grail – somatics trauma therapy through the neurodivergent lens – I was nervously excited to discover Holly’s practice earlier this year. Holly guided me through a week long intensive, which fundamentally shifted both baselines and perspectives, and drastically improved my immediate wellbeing and longer-term self-belief. The experience has been quite literally life changing and I haven’t stopped praising both somatics practice and Holly ever since! I’m very much looking forward to starting her new A.R.T Express Course so that I can learn even more about the science behind the therapy, and be able to actually share its benefits with others, instead of just raving about them! Holly is an absolute delight to work with, having the envious ability to hold a calming space for challenging moments, while also sharing the more complicated science with a side order of laughter. I cannot recommend her more; I’m so grateful I found the Holly Grail!”

TAKE A JOURNEY

OUR SERVICES

CONSULTATIONS

Holly Bridges offers a range of consultations and therapy sessions held via Hangouts or Zoom (Worldwide) based upon her renowned 5 element program.

INTENSIVES

Face to face and/or Zoom sessions, 1:1 or accompanied by a parent or supporter, to build people’s strengths and individual style.

WORKSHOPS

Public and within-organisation one day and two day seminars & workshops, with optional third day advanced or practitioner sessions.

TRAINING

Structured training programs, internationally accredited for continuing education (CPD), for therapists & workplaces.

Reframe your thinking around autism: How the polyvagal theory and brain plasticity help us make sense of autism, by Holly Bridges. Book and E-book, 104 pages, 1st edition, 2015. ISBN:978-1-84905-672-4.

article

The Polyvagal Theory focuses on our ability to be socially engaged. In order to use our social capacity, we need to be in the right physical state. When we are in a flight/fight, or more immobilised state, our physical ability to use our social system – eyes, ears, voice, connection to heart…

article

So much of our focus on the Polyvagal Theory centres around honouring and validating the ventral vagus and teaching people to move up from the dorsal states and into the light of the ventral states. According to the polyvagal theory the ventral vagus – the second branch of the parasympathetic nervous system…

article

So much of traditional autism therapy is devoted to removing variances and aligning with the typical. What if this is a false benchmark against which we judge those on the autism spectrum? For too long we have had a very narrow focus on autism as deficit without being able to see the incredible…

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Services & Media Enquiries

Holly Bridges is an author, teacher and mentor.
She provides consultations and workshops via Skype
and face to face in Australia, the USA and UK.

Experience
Stephen Porges
Professor of Psychiatry.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

“I became acquainted with Holly in 2014, when she contacted me to evaluate a prepublication copy of her book, Reframe Your Thinking Around Autism: How the Polyvagal Theory and Brain Plasticity Help Us Make Sense of Autism.

Since I developed Polyvagal Theory, I was curious how she would distill the concepts of theory into an accessible volume that would be helpful to those on the autism spectrum, their families, and the therapists and educators who support them. In reading her book, I realized that Holly had a gifted presentation style that enabled her to communicate the optimistic and important principles of the Polyvagal Theory.

Holly continues to refine her clinical style, embodying aspects of Polyvagal Theory, that enable her to support her clients’ journey to have richer lives and to experience the benefits being safe enough to co-regulate with others.

Focusing on witnessing the client’s biobehavioral state and providing cues of safety through own presence and accessibility, she has successfully expanded the range of the social behavior and resilience”.

Dr. Gerard Costa
Director, Centre for Autism and Early Childhood Mental Health.
Montclair State University, New Jersey

“Holly is an incredible thinker and a sought-after consultant and interventionist with neurodiverse children and families. However her skills as a writer and presenter are extraordinary.

She is warm, engaging and energetic with the capacity to teach about very complex topics in very understandable ways.

One of her special gifts as a presenter is her use of simple line drawings of human and brain/nervous system structures and functions, making the complex interactions come alive, making incredible sense to participants with varying levels of knowledge.

Holly is one of those rare “translators” of science into application and practice. She teaches professionals and families and supports those with developmental difficulties with deep understanding, passion and care.

She is a gift to our work.”