Raising a child or teen on the autism spectrum can be one of the most rewarding and yet taxing things some parents will ever experience. Mental health counselors who specialize in this population can help families navigate this challenge and supplement traditional ABA therapy. Parents with a child on the autism spectrum become adept at researching, finding, and financing all the right therapies for their kids but also have a tendency to neglect their own needs. Seeking professional counseling help may be necessary at some point.
How Can Mental Health Counseling Help?
First, counseling can help families become adjusted. The Autism/Asperger’s diagnosis itself is often traumatic for parents and can be a grueling process that may take up to a year or more. During the process, parents are typically faced with myriad feelings, including anxiety, guilt, worry, hope, and fear about the future. An understanding of the grief stages helps parents adjust. A person may need therapeutic interventions such as cognitive restructuring or EMDR therapy to help them get past the shock or pain of the initial diagnosis
Second, counseling can strengthen or supplement parenting skills. Parenting a child or teen on the spectrum can be very different than parenting a neurotypical child. There are therapeutic and sensory issues to consider, educational decisions to be made, medical interventions and safety concerns. It is easy for any parent to become incredibly overwhelmed and confused when faced with it all. A counselor who is well-versed in the needs of autism spectrum families can help parents prioritize needs and reduce the anxiety associated with overwhelm
Third, counseling can strengthen relationships. Parents of children or teens with autism (unfortunately) have a higher divorce/separation rate than parents of typical children. A diagnosis of Autism/Asperger’s doesn’t ruin a relationship, but responses to it might. A counselor who understands the constant stress autism places on a family can help a couple navigate the difficulties while staying connected.
Fourth, counseling can help manage stress. The daily stress of an Autism/Asperger’s parent is tremendous and constant. A counselor can help by offering a caring, supportive ear, validating parenting efforts and encouraging self-care skills. Counseling can help someone through a rough patch or be used on an ongoing basis throughout the parent’s journey. If you are the parent of a child with autism spectrum, counseling can make a tremendous difference in how you play the cards you’ve been dealt. In the end, that’s a win-win for your entire family.
Autism Family Counseling Can Be Very Effective
Autism is becoming more widespread, as are the kinds of intervention, community resources and an understanding of what autistic teens need to engage effectively within their greater communities. It’s really common for autistic teens to struggle in school and with social interactions, which are typically the two dominant parts of a teenager’s life. A common form of behavioral therapy is Applied behavioral analysis (“ABA”) therapy (e.g., Autism Behavior & Childhood Services located in Lemont, Illinois). ABA is based on informing, teaching, training and educating students, parents and/or educators through ABA concepts and methods.
As a supplement to ABA, mental health therapy can improve the skills needed to handle social challenges and to live and function in a large community. It can give them or their families the tools to be more successful.