Therapy for Autistic Individuals

Therapists typically use a cognitive-behavioral therapy approach (CBT) while drawing from other therapy approaches as indicated. CBT recognizes how thoughts, emotions, and actions are interconnected and uses problem-solving strategies and psychoeducation to increase awareness and enable change. Family involvement is often encouraged, as it is an important part of generalizing new skills. Depending on the needs of the individual, the focus of therapy may include one or more of the following:

  • Increasing awareness of emotional responses and developing emotion regulation skills
  • Developing coping skills for frustration
  • Instruction and practice in problem-solving skills
  • Increasing understanding of social situations and appropriate social interaction skills through role-play and rehearsal

What Kind of Counselor Works With Children On The Autism Spectrum?

If you are interested in helping children with autism, you may be looking for information about autism spectrum counselors.

Since autism diagnoses have become more prevalent in recent years, our understanding of autism and how to help people on the autism spectrum has also grown. While there are still a lot of questions about what causes autism, there is also a lot of hope that with good help, children on the autism spectrum can learn skills that will help them in their social, communication and emotional challenges. Different types of counselors may be utilized in that task, partly because the challenges children face vary a lot depending on how they are diagnosed on the autism spectrum.

A Range of Challenges

As you might guess from the word “spectrum,” there is not one diagnosis that fits neatly for children (or for that matter, adults) on the autism spectrum. The CDC includes autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder (not otherwise specified) and also Asperger Syndrome on the autism spectrum.

A child with autism may exhibit a lot of the symptoms we associate with autism or only some, and symptoms can range from mild to severe. Because people with autism learn differently than people without it, sometimes the behaviors that an autistic child exhibits can show up as giftedness while other times they manifest as significant delays. So what kind of counseling someone seeks to help a child with autism is probably going to vary depending on the diagnosis and the types of behavior exhibited.

Some of those behaviors may include repeating certain words or actions often, not looking at others or having a hard time relating to them, not enjoying being touched, having difficulty expressing needs or feelings clearly or having atypical reactions to certain sounds, smells or tastes. Children on the autism spectrum may also have a harder than usual time adjusting to changes, even small ones.

Types of Counseling

Many children on the autism spectrum benefit from early intervention with developmentalists or other specialists who can help parents identify the challenges their child might face. Often this is where parents will start if they suspect that their child might be autistic but the child has not yet been diagnosed. Once a child is older, they might work with other counselors or therapists. However, if a child has major challenges in communicating, especially talking, some of the more traditional forms of therapy might not be very effective.

In general, a child on the autism spectrum would be more likely to benefit from work with a behavioral therapist. If a child is highly functioning on the spectrum, perhaps with Asperger’s, then they might benefit from a more traditional kind of counseling therapy. Sometimes the symptoms of autism can lead to other things that a child or a child’s family can benefit from working through with a counselor, such as loneliness and social isolation.

Different types of counselors and therapists are available for children on the autism spectrum and their families. What kind of help these families seek will likely depend on their child’s diagnosis and on the mildness or severity of their symptoms. The good news is that autism spectrum counselors can help children learn new skills.