Autism Counseling, Acceptance, and Support
What is Autism?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a clinical diagnosis in the DSM-5, our current psychiatric diagnostic system. Autism spectrum disorder is categorized as a neurodevelopmental disorder and is marked by impairment in social communication and the presence of restrictive interests and repetitive patterns of behavior. The term, autism, has historically been synonymous with ASD or the prior diagnostic term, Autistic Disorder. Currently, the term Autism is both used to classify individuals with a psychiatric diagnosis of ASD or those who self-identify due to the presence of autistic traits. Individuals with autism may range from being completely nonverbal to displaying an eloquent vocabulary. Some Autistic individuals are not interested in interpersonal interactions while others show social interest but have an experience of feeling “socially awkward.” Many autistic children, teens, and adults may “mask” through social situations, using a variety of strategies to compensate for their challenges reading people and interacting with them. According to the Centers for Disease Control, autism affects an estimated 1 in 54 children in the United States today.
We have specialists at our practice who have focused their careers on Autism Counseling. Our highly trained clinicians understand that everyone is unique and there isn’t any one way to approach difficulties in life. We use diverse approaches that are tailored to each individual. Our goal is to help individuals on the spectrum build upon their gifts and implement strategies to navigate the trickier parts of their lives. We offer clinical support to individuals, partners, and families.
Guided by the individual needs of each client, our clinicians determine areas of recommended support and treatment suggestions that best meet a client’s needs. Our clinicians then work collaboratively with clients toward enhancing those areas. Clinicians also continuously monitor goals and progress,making adjustments to the approach, when appropriate.
experience you can trust
Our clinicians draw from clinical research and experience to guide their support and intervention strategies. We understand how autism can contribute to strengths and challenges in multiple areas of life including social engagement, relationships, and work experience. We practice from a strengths-based perspective to help clients and their loved ones communicate effectively and handle the challenges that come their way. Additionally, we offer our therapists ongoing opportunities for training and education with clinicians who have expertise in the field of neurodiversity.
Mindfulness – “The intentional, accepting and non-judgmental focus of one’s attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment.” What this means is working to build our awareness of our inner world and work to not have negative emotions or stimuli flood and overwhelm us.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy – CBT and stress management are important because they help the child or adult with autism learn to cope with anxiety, anger, depression, and obsessions.
Modeling – this involves a demonstration of a desired skill or behavior, and then directing or encouraging the autism person to duplicate it.
Enhancing Social Competence – social skills are enhanced using a variety of methods and settings such as: friendship groups at school, group projects, group-therapy programs, and mentoring programs.
Targeted Intervention Strategies – focused on teaching distinct aspects of social aptitude, such as joint attention, emotion recognition, and perspective-taking abilities.
Important to Remember – Consistency across settings and people is key. For maximal benefits, everyone supporting the individual must make an effort to work jointly as a team. Parents, mental health professionals, pediatricians, neurologists, educators, occupational therapists, and other professionals should collaborate to provide consistent, wide-ranging support.
- Addressing school- or work-related difficulties
- Determining life paths
- Assistance with relationships, friendships, and dating
- Impulse control
- Learning how to self-advocate
- Coping with anxiety/depression
- Handling social rejection
- Planning for/adjusting to natural life transitions (e.g., into adolescence, into adulthood)
- Identify development
- School-related struggles
- Difficulties establishing friendships or playing with peers
- Addressing bullying and building coping skills
- Difficulties with emotional/behavioral regulation
- Building flexibility
- Learning/practicing perspective-taking skills
- Learning communication strategies to ensure everyone is “on the same page.”
- Planning for upcoming events/transitions
- Preventing, responding to, and recovering from conflict
Although adults are increasingly self-identifying with autism, an “official” diagnosis is usually given after thorough neurological or psychological assessment. A full evaluation may include directly administered assessment tools, observation-based instruments, questionnaires, and interviews of the individual and those most involved in the individual’s life.
- Autism spectrum disorder: current DSM-5 diagnosis based on evaluation by a medical provider or a psychologist
- Autism: Used to describe a medical diagnosis or as self-identification for people who are “on the spectrum.”
- Asperger’s Syndrome: Diagnosis that was removed from medical diagnostic terminology in 2013 but is still often used to self-identify. People with Asperger’s Syndrome tend to have many of the social and behavioral characteristics of autism but tend to have well-developed general communication skills and average to high IQs.
- Neurodiversity: Term describing the varying profiles of individuals’ brain functions and behavior and placing them on the continuum of normal variation in humans. The concept of neurodiversity ultimately changes the landscape because it challenges the notion of autism as a disorder to be “fixed” and places greater emphasis on strengths and acceptance. If the range of neurodiversity were considered to be line with two set ends, profiles closer to the center would be considered neurotypical while those further away would be considered neurodivergent.
- Neurodivergent: Traditionally describes individuals who are on the spectrum; however, this term appears to be broadening to describe people with ADHD, challenges with executive functioning, and other types of cognitive/learning variations.
- Neurotypical: Traditionally, a neurotypical person has been someone who does not meet criteria for autism or a related DSM-IV/DSM-5 disorder.
- On the spectrum: even before the concept of neurodiversity took the limelight, distinctive differences were noted among skills and behaviors of individuals with autism. Autism, in itself, is considered a spectrum diagnosis because of these varying profiles.
Many individuals value their autistic traits because they consider them to be a fundamental part of who they are. There are many strengths associated with autism including visual skills, attention to details, and unique approaches to problem solving. The scientific community has largely moved away from autism being a condition to be cured. However, there is much to be done toward building increased acceptance and understanding in the community (e.g. including schools, workplaces, etc.). Much of the focus for intervention today is geared toward helping people with autism determine areas that best match their strengths, teaching skills, accommodating for areas of difficulty, and implementing family/community supports to optimize success across the lifespan. Through a neurodiverse lens we see Autism as being a different way of seeing and experiencing the world. Some of the world’s greatest minds have been thought to be those who are autistic.
Curious if You have Autism?
MEET THE TEAM
The therapists below specialize in Autism.
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Below are some posts on Autism that may be helpful to you in your quest to learn more for yourself or those you love.
By William Schroeder, LPC Have you had difficulty communicating effectively with your Asperger’s partner? Many of my adult clients tend to fall on the higher
by William Schroeder, MA, LPC, NCC Since it is Autism Awareness month, I wanted to speak to a little of what I have noticed