HBH Treatment & Therapies

Autism Spectrum Disorder: Symptoms, Interventions, and Support

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What is ASD?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is an official mental health diagnosis in which the criteria include the following:

  1. Developmental delays,
  2. Social/emotional deficits, and
  3. Behavioral management issues.

There has been a tremendous amount of research done on individuals with ASD leading to many advancements in early detection and treatment interventions. These interventions range from clinical interventions, like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to behavioral interventions, like assessment and management techniques.

Dealing with the unique challenges that ASD presents for either individuals with the disorder or their parents, caregivers, partners may be challenging. Additionally, finding access to the supports needed to build skills, navigate societal expectations, and manage the incredible amount of stress that goes along with this process can be difficult and frustrating.

Speaking to a mental health therapist could have a positive impact and many benefits when facing these challenges. Our therapists and counselors in Massachusetts are available for online and in person sessions. If you would like to set up a meeting for you or your loved one you can book an appointment online or call us at (413) 343-4357. Professional help is within reach!

How Is ASD Diagnosed And What Are the Symptoms and Signs?

Autism Spectrum Disorder is so unique because each child or adult diagnosed with ASD presents with a diverse and individualized range of functioning deficits, and strengths.

According to information provided by Autism Speaks.org, in 2020, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported that approximately 1 in 54 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with ASD. Furthermore, they maintain that boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder than girls.

Typical signs and symptoms of ASD include but are not limited to:

  • Developmental delays (including speech delays)
  • Avoidance of eye contact
  • Difficulty understanding the perspective and emotions of others
  • Repetitive behaviors
  • Sensory issues
  • Restricted interests

Some or all of these common signs and symptoms are typically noticeable by 18-24 months of age. Pediatricians do ASD screening questionnaires during toddler well visit checks. Depending on the results of the questionnaire, as well as observation or caregiver report, pediatricians may often suggest that parents or caregivers get more specialized services or assessments if there are concerns about atypical development. This form of early detection of ASD and its symptoms can provide many benefits.

Children with atypical development or ASD diagnoses become eligible for specialized early intervention services which can help to increase functioning, lessen the severity of developmental delays, and decrease complex behavioral issues.

How can a Therapist or Counselor help?

While diagnoses and treatment may be highly beneficial for the child, when a child is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder there are many conflicting feelings that parents or caregivers may experience.

Working with a Clinical Psychologist, Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC), or Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) can help parents and caregivers cope with these complex emotions and provide strategies to assist in facing the challenges of raising a child with ASD.

There are many highly qualified professionals that have become trained in these areas and are very passionate about working with individuals with ASD and their family members. We are fortunate at HBH to have a team that has supportive therapists skilled and trained in these very areas.

ASD In Adults And Teens

There has also been a trend in which teens and adults are now questioning if they have Autism Spectrum Disorder. Oftentimes individuals display milder symptoms of the disorder or may have been able to function to a level in which ASD would have been undetected. Therefore, these individuals often have been misdiagnosed with mood disorders or ADHD or have been undiagnosed. This has left these individuals struggling with inappropriate and ineffective treatment to address significant social, emotional, and behavioral struggles, as well as feelings of being different or inadequate.

Gender And ASD Presentation

It is also important to note that research has been conducted which indicates that the presentation of Autism Spectrum Disorder in females may be significantly different than that of males. Therefore, this could account for the fact that boys are four times as likely to be diagnosed with ASD than girls.

Additionally, ASD is often not diagnosed in women until adulthood. According to Amita Health, some factors that may contribute to this are girls tend to experience stress or sensory overload in ways that do not draw attention to themselves, or girls often stick to female social norms and thrive within the structure and rules these norms provide.

Lastly, autism is often seen by healthcare providers as a “male disorder” therefore girls are not referred to specialists for assessment and evaluation as often as boys.

What Treatment Options Are Available For ASD?

One of these treatment modalities are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). The professionals at HBH have extensive training in CBT. According to New York University’s Hassenfield Children’s Hospital Child Study Center, CBT is a form of therapeutic treatment that can assist children, parents/caregivers, adolescents, and adults in building skills to help manage unwanted thoughts, behaviors, or challenging situations.

In addition to their training in CBT, at HBH we also have team members who are able to provide family therapy and parent coaching to offer further support and counseling options.

There Is Hope

In conclusion, it is important to acknowledge that individuals of any age diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, as well as their families, parents/caregivers, and partners may feel a deep sense of isolation and hopelessness. ASD, and the many challenges and personal struggles it creates, often impacts all areas of life.

Please know that there is treatment and support out there to help you through the most difficult of times and begin the journey to move forward to a happier and more fulfilling life. You are not alone.

Where Can I Find Local Resources for ASD Therapy in Eastern and Western MA?

Western Massachusetts and the Pioneer Valley have some local resources to support families and individuals in need of therapy and counseling services for ASD:

  • Handel Behavioral Health
    HBH offers clinical counseling and therapeutic interventions, like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, for individuals and loved ones needing intervention to deal with stressors and learn social skills and how to express emotions effectively. The counselors and therapists in West Springfield accept many insurance plans and are available for appointments. New clients can book a session with HBH via our online portal or by calling 413-343-4357
  • Autism Connections
    Autism Connections is based in Western Massachusetts and offers a monthly newsletter, parent-to-parent connections/support groups, Educational Advocacy, training and case management services to individuals diagnosed with ASD residing in the area.
  • The May Institute
    Early Intervention agency for children ages birth to three years old.

*Please note that some of the information above was adapted from the following sources:

Information on Screening and Diagnosis, the Center for Disease Control:

https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/screening.html

Information on Learning the signs of ASD and How to Explore ASD diagnosis if an Adult:

https://www.autismspeaks.org/signs-autism

Information on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children:

https://nyulangone.org/conditions/autism-spectrum-disorder-in-children/treatments/cognitive-behavioral-therapy-for-autism-spectrum-disorder-in-children

Information on why ASD in Girls is Often Missed Until Adulthood:

About The Author

Cari Chapderlane-Cox Headshot

Cari has worked in school social work, community mental health outreach, and mild/intensive therapeutic programming. She has assisted individuals experiencing a wide range of behavioral health symptoms, including but not limited to, processing through severe and complex behaviors related to trauma to dealing with adjustment issues related to life stage transitions. More About Author →