Autism Spectrum Disorder: How You Can Help (Part 2)

When people think of various services for people with autism spectrum disorder, they most often think of professionals who are board certified behavior analysts, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, etc. While that is certainly correct, counselors can be overlooked–which they absolutely shouldn’t be.  Counseling can be beneficial for a number of reasons when working with people on the spectrum–after all, they are people too and have everyday issues like neurotypical people.  

Edit1

By: Julie Burke, LPC-I
Supervised By: Susan Gonzales, LPC-S

What Does Counseling Look Like for Someone on the Spectrum?  

Counseling can help an individual:

  • Work on self-esteem, self-advocacy, and increased autonomy
  • Assist with social interactions
    • Nonverbal behavior
    • Eye contact
  • Social communication
    • What small-talk is and how to participate in it
    • Interpersonal communication
  • Determining strengths and how to utilize them

That is a short list of what counseling can look like–there are many other topics that are helpful to explore.  

“It is never too late to expand the mind of a person on the autism spectrum.”Dr. Temple Grandin

Counseling can also be incredibly helpful for people who are not on the spectrum, however, are impacted by someone with autism–for example: caretakers, parents, siblings, etc.  Often, parents can feel helpless and/or confused and in need of direction and siblings can feel resentment or confusion about their brother/sister.  

Needless to say–a lot can be done.  

But I’m Not a Counselor…What Can I Do to Help?  

Help can look like a variety of things!  For example, it’s important not to focus entirely on someone’s deficits.  It’s easy to focus on things someone cannot do, but that is wholeheartedly unfair and does not give credit where credit is due. Rather, do what you can to provide support for people–accommodate deficits as appropriate and help people on the spectrum succeed.  If you are stuck trying to get someone on the spectrum to complete something they just cannot (or will not) do–take a step back and determine if this task is important for you (or the individual) and realize if you’re trying to force someone into something they aren’t or can’t be.  While accommodating deficits can (and is) beneficial, it’s also important to hone in on a person’s strengths and help individuals practice tasks that exploit their strengths as much as possible.  

On a broader level, however, there are a ton of opportunities for outreach.  April is National Autism Awareness Month.  During April, the general goal is to gain increased: awareness, action, inclusion, acceptance, and appreciation for individuals on the autism spectrum.  This can be done in a variety of ways, including:

  • “Light It Up Blue” Campaign
    • Click the link to learn what “Light it Up Blue” (or LIUB) means!  Wear the color blue on April 2 and check out different buildings across the world (including the Empire State Building and the Doha Tower) as they go blue!  
  • Put on the Puzzle
    • The Autism Awareness Ribbon is the most recognized symbol of the autism community.  The ribbon has different colored puzzle pieces all over it; the colors and shapes represent the diversity of the people and families affected with autism while the ribbon signals hope.  
  • Increase your awareness by reading a book or watching a movie
    • Autism in Love is a great documentary about the lives of different adults and the challenges they face in life (in general) and when looking for love.  
    • Books by John Elder Robison or Temple Grandin are both great resources and insight from two adult individuals who are successful and living with the spectrum.  There are also great children’s books too.    

Needless to say, a lot can be done.  A diagnosis of autism can be scary, confusing, and even overwhelming for all people involved (eg: the person with autism, parents, siblings, caretakers, etc.) but there are great resources and people who care out there.  

For information about the diagnosis itself, check out Autism Spectrum Disorder: What You Need to Know (Part 1).