Autism Warrior: Dr. Frank Gaskill
Dr. Gaskill is cofounder of Southeast Psych, one of the biggest psychology practices in the United States. The practice employs more than 50 clinicians who are always ready to provide the services needed by their patients. Dr. Gaskill specializes in the treatment of autism and Asperger’s syndrome.
Accomplishments: Dr. Gaskill is extremely proud of cofounding Southeast Psych and helping the practice expand its operations across the United States and around the world. The practice currently has offices in Nashville, Tennessee, Charlotte, North Carolina, and New Zealand. Dr. Gaskill said his practice has successfully established an atmosphere of fun and special experiences in their offices in an effort to encourage and uplift their patients and clients.
Dr. Gaskill also helped create the program called Aspire in order to provide a space for families on the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to thrive, find joy, and aspire toward their dreams. Under the program, a team of psychologists, therapists, educational consultants, and parenting coaches who specialize on the lifespan of the spectrum provide a continuum of services and experiences across the lifespan of their patients and clients.
Among the various activities they conducted under the Aspire initiative are group programs for social skills developments, marriage therapy for couples on the spectrum, parenting conferences, in-home parenting support, Cosplay summer camps, and the Lego and video game programs. In 2017, the program successfully held its inaugural AspieCon event that featured panelists, therapeutic animals, Dungeons & Dragons, and Cosplayers. According to Dr. Gaskill, AspieCon was a “huge event celebrating the spectrum.”
In his own practice in Charlotte, NC, Dr. Gaskill has also introduced programs and activities he is very proud of. Among these is the establishment of a special space for people on the spectrum called “The Zone.” In the space, which is surrounded by a myriad of spectrum interests like Legos, Dungeons & Dragons, and Minecraft, both clients and non-clients can socialize with each other and be celebrated. “The Zone” also features a hostess who is an Aspergirl and professional Cosplayer. Dr. Gaskill said their hostess has more than 53 costumes that she uses in entertaining her audience, and their clients love her very much. Those who want to know more about Dr. Gaskill’s practice and The Zone can visit Southeastpsych.com.
As a writer, Dr. Gaskill is very proud of the graphic novel he co-authored titled Max Gamer: I Am a Superhero. This comic celebrates the life of a little boy who feels very alone as he is not well-liked and does not understand he is on the spectrum. In the end, however, he discovers he has superpowers and is loved by the whole community.
Dr. Gaskill is also proud of the fact that the majority of people in Charlotte have changed their understanding and approach to children with autism in the past 15 years. From being ostracized and bullied, the children are already being celebrated and even recruited by major private schools in the city. Moreover, Dr. Gaskill said that his biggest accomplishment in life is his family, particularly his two wonderful children.
Inspiration: The doctor said he draws his strength from his patients who continue to fight for their lives and seek friendship. He is also inspired by his colleagues and the authors Steve Silberman, David Finch, and Temple Grandin.
Goals: Dr. Gaskill’s main goal is to change the way people view those with autism and to build a world that celebrates them. He also intends to create spaces for children and adults on the spectrum to become successful, happy, and connected in ways that make sense for them.
Advice for families affected by autism: Keep doing what you’re doing. If it weren’t for families on the autism spectrum, we would have no legitimate support or advocacy. This is a ground-up movement in which people on the spectrum are advocating for themselves. I would urge parents to continue to push forward, be loud, and educate everyone they know. Band together, support one another, but also be accepting of differences and lack of education. Model for neurotypicals what we expect from them.
This article was featured in Issue 68 – ASD Strategies in Action