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Dr Dina Gazizova

Author: Dr Dina GazizovaConsultant Adult Psychiatrist

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) refers to a group of complex neurodevelopmental differences often characterised by repetitive patterns of behaviour and difficulties with social communication and interaction. However, there are many therapies, interventions and approaches which can empower autistic people to lead a happier life.

What support is available for those with Autism?

Support for Autism involves addressing the needs of the person and helping them to overcome any difficulties arising, such as communication or interaction struggles.

The important part of the management of Autism is training and education.

The goals of the interventions should be enhancing the person's functional abilities and independence, and improving their quality of life7.

Medication options may be helpful for anyone who has a condition like anxiety, depression or ADHD.

7 Lai, M. et al (2008)

eating disorder patients have ASD characteristics

Behavioural interventions

Working with a psychologist or psychotherapist, someone with Autism can learn new, life-long coping skills to help them overcome some of the challenges that Autism can present.

Sometimes it is a matter of bringing into the person with ASD’s awareness what is ‘socially acceptable’ and therefore learning behaviours that will make it easier for them to get on in relationships or at work.

Other times, therapy and psychology can make a big difference to the person’s mental health – people with ASD often have other mental health conditions that can be made worse if they feel misunderstood, lonely or unsure on how to best act in a way that will help them lead happy fulfilling lives.

Cognitive behavioural therapy can help

People with Autism may have emotional problems (bullying or loneliness being prominent) and, although these issues are experienced by lots of people, they may be provoked by any social exclusion, misunderstanding or hostility that some people with Autism experience from others.

  1. CBT teaches social and emotional awareness and enables the individual to develop a ‘toolbox’ of successful coping mechanisms to help deal with difficult, anxiety inducing situations.
  2. The individual is encouraged to adapt the skills taught in their own way, making them a better ‘fit’ and therefore more likely to be used effectively.
  3. CBT can be very successful in helping the individual overcome some of the negative thought patterns they may adopt and as a result can improve feelings of depression, anxiety and low self worth. Once symptoms of anxiety or depression are improved, other characteristics of Autism may change – for instance any restrictive or repetitive behaviours may lessen.

I was diagnosed with Autism and anxiety. It has helped me enormously as I now receive support from my University in everything from filling in application forms to preparing for interviews. I also had a short course of CBT and it helped me to gain my confidence and overcome my anxiety. Without the diagnoses none of this would have been possible.

Sophie, Nottingham

Social skills training

There is a growing body of evidence to support the effectiveness of different types of social skills training in people with Autism and Asperger’s. Typically, social skills interventions are facilitated by a therapist and may involve training peers, siblings, or parents to interact with person with Autism in ways that increase his/her social skills. The therapist or psychologist may also work directly with the individual as well.

Anti-Victimisation Interventions

Designed for adults with Autism who are at risk of victimisation this teaching is based on decision-making and problem-solving skills. The interventions typically include identifying and, where possible, modifying and developing decision-making skills in situations associated with abuse and developing personal safety skills.

Anger management interventions

Therapeutic support can really help adults with Autism deal with and manage any anger or aggression issues. This type of training will looking at situations that may be anger-provoking and then learning and practising new coping skills and behaviours.

Everything was handled with respect and professionalism. I would recommend Clinical Partners to anyone.

Tony, Birmingham

Relationship counselling

We know that being in a relationship with someone who receives a diagnosis of Autism can be difficult. The relationship can be put under a lot of strain and it can be hard to discuss feelings, leading to resentment and even relationship break downs.

Relationship counselling, with a therapist with experience of working with Autism, can really improve things. The counselling provides a safe space for both parties to discuss their emotions and develop healthier ways of relating, whilst the counsellor can help the couple find workable solutions to some of the difficulties commonly experienced in these situations.

Family therapy

Family therapy can help partners, children, parents and grandparents work through any difficulties that might arise when someone in the family has Autism. Common problems include sibling rivalry, a lack of understanding as to what Autism means, conflict around parenting styles and frustrations with challenging behaviour.

The therapist will work with you to determine successful coping strategies and mechanisms to achieve a fulfilling and happy family life. By airing frustrations in a safe, non-judgemental environment the atmosphere at home can often improve drastically as family members gain an understanding of each other’s points of view and common goals can be worked towards.

Medication for Autism

No medication has been found to improve social and communication skills, and the main aim of medication is to treat the comorbidities associated with Autism, e.g. depression, anxiety or ADHD. If medication is needed then it can make a big difference to the overall health and wellbeing of the person with ASD – they may find it easier to cope in certain situations and may find that some of the common characteristics, such as restricted or repetitive behaviours lessen.

It is important to see an expert in the field of ASD and Asperger syndrome to make sure that the right medication is chosen.

Finally I have some answers after waiting years to get an assessment. I can move forward now and feel I have the right information I need to get the support I deserve.

Andrew, Bournemouth

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