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Psychotherapy with an Autistic Child


There are many diverse views regarding autism - as to its origins, the best way to treat it and the prognosis for a child.

There are also many other therapies, such as Occupational Therapy, Sensory Processing Therapy, Behaviour management and so on, which can offer support and benefits for an autistic child. These are not my areas of expertise.

My own special area is in working with children with certain sorts of autism, namely those where there is a strong likelihood that positive change in the way a child functions may be achieved. This sort of (psychogenic) autism comes about through a variety of factors and often has its origins in some psychological conditions.

I have had experience working with children diagnosed in the spectrum, where they have been able to make significant psychological shifts to achieve better functioning. The child often develops the capacity to better manage their 'meltdowns' (storms and rages) which arise as a result of some difficulty in their interactions, meanwhile developing the capacity for imaginative play of their own. (This is, in itself, a good indicator for positive psychological development.) However, there may often still be a need for medication and other special support for the child.    
Psychological work with an autistic child is generally slow, often takes a number of years and requires a substantial commitment. The goal of this work is to help the child towards better functioning in every area. I have become particularly interested in this work, even though it requires a significant commitment. It is preferable that a child start to see me before they are 7 or 8yo.  

A thorough assessment is carried out before any decision is made to attempt therapeutic work.

For a child who is unable to play, such as many autistic children, I first respond to the child in whatever way communication can be made.

I find that it’s possible to make a meaningful relationship relatively quickly with a child who is officially diagnosed on the spectrum, but who is not completely disengaged. Once some communication is established, then change towards better functioning starts to happen. 

With a more withdrawn autistic child, once I’m able to facilitate some emotional trust and connection, the child starts to respond to me, however minimal the ‘play’ or communication is and then progress can be made.

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