Illustration kids walking with moon in background

Help for children and teens with autism: an individualized approach to autism treatment

As an autism therapist, my distinctive approach is to combine a background in behavioral and developmental therapies with a mental health and creative arts focus. Difficulties in the processing and expression of complex feelings for young people on the spectrum can be even more challenged in the face of environmental stressors and conflict within families. For younger children, support in sessions can take the form of more traditional autism treatment such as behavioral therapy (Applied Behavior Analysis or ABA), developmental and relationship-based play therapy (Floortime), and more basic social skills support in order to increase and reinforce a child’s ability to utilize effective coping skills, communicate successfully, and engage with others. For teens, I can collaborate around ways to navigate desired social connections, to discover emerging identities, to increase positive feelings toward themselves and their abilities, and achieve greater independence in the family when needed.

What makes me different as an autism therapist, is that I also incorporate into autism treatment my experience with approaches that work well with young people on the autism spectrum. I use cognitive behavioral therapy to challenge more rigid thinking, and narrative therapy combined with art therapy to increase interest and engagement while providing a new and imaginative way to see problems and solutions. I join with young people by exploring their special interests and often use these preferred subjects as a starting point for initial rapport building and collaborative problem solving.

Illustration of girl looking at moon

A unique autism therapy approach using art therapy and play therapy to encourage creativity and embrace outside the box thinking

I use creative modalities such as art therapy and play therapy in autism treatment to best channel a child’s more familiar means of expression. For children and teens, art therapy draws on concrete thinking, uses visual processing, and eases difficulties in verbal communication. Due to potential challenges in social skills and ability to regulate and effectively express strong emotions, art and play therapy can become safe and appropriate ways to direct overwhelming feelings. Art and play therapy can also bring about enhanced problem solving capacities, increased emotional regulation, and a sense of pleasure and accomplishment. Oftentimes young people with autism see the world in different and creative ways, and utilizing outside the box therapies can assist them in expressing and processing unique experiences, while increasing understanding with the important adults in their lives.

Developmental and relationship-based play therapy for younger children can also help strengthen communication abilities by providing a safe outlet to process complex feelings, work through conflict, and increase self-esteem. Engaging in play expands reciprocal interactions and symbolic play capacities, and teaches ways to negotiate the social world more successfully.

Specialized autism treatment for behavioral, social, & emotional challenges

In therapy sessions, my approach to treatment for children and teens with autism is strength-based, and provides help for specific challenges they face by reinforcing positive coping skills to help manage acting out behaviors, emotional problems such as anxiety and depression, and difficulties in the social realm. Feelings can be experienced as more intense, and it can often be more difficult to calm down effectively. I am aware of sensory integration challenges and utilize squeeze and fidget toys, kinetic sand, clay, and other tools to assist in supporting sensory needs. I also engage with children in more active play during the session when needed. This can help the release of energy in a productive way so increased attention can be directed toward session goals.

Especially when your child is younger, I collaborate with you to provide solutions to issues with emotional regulation, inflexibility with rules, and strategies to use with frustration and anxiety when schedules and events change, transition time is limited, and things do not go as expected. I can work with you to create a tailor made behavioral support plan using positive reinforcement strategies, and will also help your child increase his or her ability to see things from a different perspective by challenging rigid thinking patterns, and building frustration tolerance through engagement in non-preferred activities. Autism treatment will also include social skills support to help increase a child’s awareness of social cues (e.g. when to use eye contact, personal space, and what is appropriate to share or keep to oneself), and to provide more comfort and fluency with conversation and friendship skills.

For teens, support lies in collaborating with you as well to increase independence, as I continue to provide support around negotiating through complex social interactions, and increasing awareness of the unique way they can interpret events and see the world. For older children and teens, awareness and understanding of an autism diagnosis can also be an important part of the family therapy process.

Illustration boy gazing into glowing ball
Scroll to Top