Online Therapy for Autism. Your Options for Treating ASD Disorder.
Autism awareness has grown vastly in recent years, with autistic characters frequenting our TV and movie screens and real people like Greta Thunberg in the news. It is still relatively misunderstood, however, compared to things like obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Although autism does share some symptoms with other disorders, parents of autistic boys tend to first seek help for suspected ADHD for example, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) brings a unique set of challenges to suffers and their caregivers. Therefore, psychologyhelp.com have put together this guide for anyone seeking online therapy for autism.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a condition that currently affects an estimated 1% of the entire world. It is a developmental disorder, meaning it causes differences in how the brain grows, which has given rise to the term ‘neurodiverse’ to describe people on the spectrum, as opposed to neurotypical. ASD disorder is characterized by three central symptoms, known as the triad of impairments.
- Social interaction – everyone with autism will have difficulty understanding social rules that neurotypical people take for granted. For example, sensory differences might cause an autistic person to speak louder than is socially acceptable in certain circumstances.
- Social communication – autistic people are unlikely to make normal eye contact or pick up on non-verbal gestures.
- Lack of imagination – this impairment is often associated with rigid thinking and repetitive behavior.
Whilst diagnostic criteria differ slightly in different countries, ASD disorder describes a spectrum of severity and now includes conditions such as Asperger’s Syndrome, that were previously categorized as separate conditions. Terms like high and low functioning autism are being phased out as they were found to be confusing and a level system is taking over.
Many countries are even replacing the word ‘disorder’ and replacing it with condition, as a large percentage of autistics, especially those with level 1 (previously Asperger’s or high functioning autism), find the idea that they have a disorder quite offensive.
Although autism is a childhood disorder, greater public and medical knowledge is causing more adults to be diagnosed. Self-diagnosis in adults is common in areas where official diagnoses are difficult to obtain or expensive. As our personal identity is closely linked to our mental well-being, a lack of diagnosis or one that happened late in life can lead to problems including depression and anxiety.
Online therapy for autism
Autism is a lifelong condition, meaning there is no cure, but certain forms of therapy have been found to greatly improve the lives of those with ASD disorder and their friends and families. With children on the autism spectrum the biggest challenges are usually with communication, so speech therapy is often recommended. When a solid foundation of communication has been built, behavioral therapy is believed to be most effective for children and adults with autism.
Traditionally behavioral therapy takes place in person, however, as meeting new people, such as a therapist, can be traumatic for autistics, many now consider autism therapy online as a viable option. As most types of behavioral therapy are considered long term solutions, online therapy for autism can be much more cost effective, as well as saving extra time that would otherwise be spent travelling to therapists’ offices.
Behavioral autism therapy online
There are many different types of autism therapy online and there is unfortunately no way of knowing which will suit any particular person, whether child or adult. As behavioral therapy is effective and safe the best approach is to remain flexible and be informed about your options. This guide covers a few of these options but is not exhaustive. If you are still unsure about proceeding with online therapy for autism, contact psychologyhelp.com for more advice.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): Perhaps the most known intervention for a variety of behavioral problems, CBT was developed in the 1960s. Usually recommended for children and adults with less severe symptoms associated with autism, CBT is based on the idea that certain behaviors create anxiety because of the meaning placed on them by a person, rather than the actual meaning.
By essentially reprogramming the brain with simple relaxation methods, for example, CBT can drastically improve the quality of life for many people on the autism spectrum.
- Applied behavior analysis (ABA): ABA is much more structured and intensive than CBT and therefore, is highly recommended for children with more severe symptoms, such as meltdowns that cause risk to the child or others in their presence.
As with CBT, ABA is well established in autism treatment having been used in such a way for around 50 years. As well as tackling problematic behavior, ABA teaches much needed social living and self-care skills and can improve play by teaching autistic children to think more creatively.
ABA uses encouragement, along with repetition and reinforcement to help children learn various skills. By first identifying each child’s existing abilities, a trained ABA therapist would then focus on which skills would benefit that particular individual. Even as children improve their social skills and begin to make friends, ABA can continue to play an important role in helping adjust to adulthood, for example.
- Verbal behavior therapy (VBT): Based on the work of famous psychologist, B.F. Skinner, VBT is an applied form of speech therapy. VBT focuses on teaching words in context; it is one thing to teach an autistic child the word ‘apple’ but helping them grasp the idea of asking for an apple because they feel hungry requires VBT.
Although it is rarer to find verbal behavior therapy online than CBT or ABA, Psychologyhelp.com can advise the best course of action for autistic children who are non-verbal.
Whilst some people on the autism spectrum will require constant care for their entire lives, online therapy can help them get the most out of their experiences, as well as offering much needed assistance for those caring for them.
For those that went through life feeling different but unaware that they are autistic, therapy such as CBT can help them gain a greater understanding not only of the world around them which can feel intimidating and strange, but of themselves as neurodiverse people.
Understanding whe your future, making sure that you can be the best you can be.
Whatever your age or circumstance, we here at psychology help.com are always available, whenever you are ready.