For children and young people who are diagnosed with autism, too frequently their emotional needs and signs of anxiety are misunderstood as part of their autism. Families faced with the challenges of caring for children and young people with autism can often feel lost, despairing and hopeless.
Autism is not a fixed way of being. Signs of autism fluctuate and differ in every individual. A child or young person may be affected differently at different moments, and at different stages of their development.
For a child with autism, a complex mix of environmental and internal experiences can cause disturbances which are suddenly overwhelming. This can often result in challenging behaviours, which grow into cycles of distress. Changes of school, changes in family, loss and trauma can be additionally challenging for children with autism. Tiny changes can feel huge and quickly escalate into feeling completely out of control, which can be frightening.
Can therapy help?
Children and young people with additional needs and mental health concerns can find relief through therapeutic. Highly sensitive approaches by a therapist, can help to make sense of worries and distress and consider ways anxieties can be relieved. This can take time. Sometimes things improve quickly, or sometimes they seem to get worse before they get better.
Often children who seem to be stuck, can continue to develop, and their symptoms can improve, when anxieties are understood. Therapy is not a cure but can enable children who are diagnosed with autism to make good developmental progress. They can reach further towards their potential to be happy and fulfilled. Individual strengths can be harnessed to overcome other adversities.
Non-verbal communication can be powerful and effectively understood. Working through a range of sensory communication enables those who struggle with social and emotional difficulties and expressive language, to benefit hugely from the therapeutic space. Understanding of the self, confidence and independence can grow.
What will therapy be like?
Children who are on the autistic spectrum require a calm and safe environment, where their sensory perceptions will not be over-whelmed. The regular and reliable structure of child psychotherapy is beneficial. It takes place in a familiar room where change and excess stimulation is kept to a minimum, is particularly beneficial. I notice and respond to sensory needs and work pro-actively through a sensitive therapeutic relationship.
When is the right time?
Early help for children on the autism spectrum, can considerably improve their future relationships and ability to access learning opportunities. Early help for parents and infants and very young children, where there are worries about autistic traits can alleviate much anxiety and often help to turn things around. Support for parents with different ways of understanding the emotional experiences of an infant, child, teenager or young person with autism, can help. It can encourage the growth of relational behaviours which in turn supports social communication and language development.