The autism spectrum includes people who have previously been diagnosed with autism, Asperger’s, and pervasive developmental disorder in the past. I work with older children and teens with behavioral and social issues due to autism spectrum (also known simply as “autism”). I also work with autistic adults who feel that their social differences are impacting work, college, or relationship functioning in a neurotypical world. At Healthy Mind Sacramento, autism assessment and therapy are both available. I have experience working with girls and women and am familiar with the diagnostic challenges in this group. For example, some women have been told incorrect information, such as they cannot be autistic because they have feelings, facial expressions, or make good eye contact. Unfortunately, these types of statements perpetuate myths and do not reflect a true understanding of the complex nature of autism.
Key Traits of Individuals on the Spectrum
Some autistic individuals have speech and language delays as a kid, while others do not. Key traits in autistic persons include:
- Deficits in social- emotional reciprocity. This can be lack of understanding of turn-taking in conversation, trouble reading nonverbals in communication, or trouble adjusting behavior to suit the context. Example: A person on the spectrum may talk to everyone about anime because he loves anime. He may not be able to read nonverbal signals that his listener is not interested in the topic of anime, and keep on talking about anime.
- Restricted or repetitive interests or patterns of behavior. In childhood, some individuals display hand-flapping, repetitively lining up toys, or repeating speech after someone talks. Other individuals may have trouble with disruption in routine and have sensory sensitivities.
- These traits are present from early development on and disrupt school, work or social functioning.
Diagnosis of autism involves taking a careful developmental history as well as completing an assessment. I am trained in the primary tests used in autism diagnosis. I test both school-age children and adults that are worried about their social- emotional functioning and think that they may be autistic. It is important to know that sometimes there are similar features that look like autism- for example, social anxiety, anxiety, or ADHD. Part of evaluation is getting to the root cause of the behaviors.
Autism Spectrum Therapy
Many people with autism had ABA therapy as a young child, but as a tween, teen, or young adult find themselves struggling. Therapy includes learning about emotions, ways that people express emotions, and how to express emotions in a healthy way. This includes using appropriate facial expressions, tone of voice, and nonverbal signals. Reading other people’s nonverbals is also and important skill we work on.
A second part of therapy, when needed, includes emotion regulation skills. This can include problems with impulse-control, behaving without first thinking, as well as executive functioning.
Theory of mind work is also typically a part of therapy. Individuals with autism spectrum disorder may struggle to take others’ perspective, or consider other people’s point of view or emotions. This becomes increasingly important as an individual ventures out into the world of college or work.
Working on transitioning to independent living is a key focus for many young adults. This includes independence in chores, work/ vocational life, and/or academics.
Finally, for parents coming in with their child, parent support and coaching on how to handle difficult behaviors so they do not escalate is included when needed. To find out a little more about my approach to tween/teen therapy, please visit my adolescent/teen therapy page.
If you are interested in learning more about autism assessment and therapy, feel free reach out to see if Healthy Mind Sacramento can help.