For the last 6 years, I’ve worked with teenagers and young adults diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). ASD is a developmental disorder that affects a person’s communication and social behavior. ASD is a spectrum diagnosis which means there are different levels of severity.
Some teens and young adults diagnosed with ASD have severe deficits in communication and social functioning. This may mean they will require substantial support all their life. Other teens and young adults on the spectrum experience social challenges but can hope to live a life of relative independence with some professional support.
There are different kinds of therapy available for teens and young adults with ASD. Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) is considered the gold-standard treatment for younger children with ASD. ABA is a type of therapy that can improve social, communication, and learning skills through positive reinforcement.
Most of my teen and young adult ASD clients are relatively high-functioning. These teens and young adults can benefit from talk therapy. What is talk therapy? And why is it beneficial for someone diagnosed with ASD?
What is Talk Therapy?
Sigmund Freud, one of the founders of modern therapy, referred to his work as the “talking cure”. At its most basic level, talk therapy is an arrangement between a therapist and a client where a client works to transform their emotional state by talking and learning coping skills. While talk therapy cannot remove a teen or young adult's Autism, it can help them accept it and learn to better manage it.
As I am presenting it, talk therapy is not social skills or group therapy. Traditional talk therapy is two individuals working together in a space of confidentiality and a space without judgment. In this space, a teen or young adult and the therapist talk about the emotional and social concerns of the client.
The Benefits of Talk Therapy for Neurodiverse Teens & Young Adults
There are many benefits of talk therapy for teens or young adults on the spectrum. Below are the three benefits that I have observed in talk therapy with neurodiverse teens and young adults:
1. Improving Self-Esteem
Every teen and young adult on the spectrum I’ve worked with has struggled with self-esteem. Why is this? The number one reason is that they have experienced bullying and have felt like social outcasts.
Teens or young adults on the spectrum usually have a hard time reading social cues and struggle to regulate their negative emotions. These usually result in social situations where teens and young adults on the spectrum or who have autism stick out and have a hard time fitting into the typical norms of the group.
Talk therapy encourages teens and young adults with ASD to translate their raw emotions and pain into words and language. This helps them make better sense of their experience.
Not only does it encourage teens and young adults to translate their suffering into speech, it provides an environment of love, acceptance, and non-judgement. The positive relationship that’s established between the therapist and the teen or young adult is an important part of the their growth in self-esteem.
2. Normalizing the Diagnosis
Many teens or young adults who struggle with ASD struggle with being labeled. They fear that having an autism spectrum disorder makes them “weird” and “different” in a negative way. Part of the process of talk therapy is helping the teen or young adult with ASD to accept their diagnosis.
The therapist and teen or young adult discuss what the diagnosis means and explore some of the challenges of being on the spectrum. Talk therapy also helps the teen understand some of the strengths of the diagnosis. Many people on the spectrum have gifts and abilities that enable them to make a wonderful contribution to society.
3. Learning Management Skills
ASD is a life-long struggle. While it may not be possible to outgrow Autism, it is possible to manage it and develop as a person. The management skills someone can learn in talk therapy include:
Emotional coping skills
In talk therapy, the teen or young adult and the therapist discuss situations that arise at school or work. We explore what went well and what did not go so well.
We focus on and validate what the teen or young adult did well in that situation. The therapist has an opportunity to reinforce the 'good' that occurred in the situation.
We also explore what didn't go so well and the therapist and the teen or young adult can role play a similar scenario. This allows the individual to practice healthier ways to respond and relate to others.
Talk therapy should provide depth, understanding, and practicality. The therapist and teen or young adult can talk about everything from the meaning of life to the importance of taking care of one’s personal hygiene. It's also important that out of that understanding, the therapist can provide practical skills the individual can use in life.
What to Look for in a Therapist for Teen & Young Adult Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Not all therapists are equal in experience and expertise. If your son or daughter has been diagnosed with ASD, it’s important to find a therapist who specializes in working with ASD.
It is also very important that your son or daughter connect with their therapist. Therapy will not be effective if the client does not bond with the therapist. Since many teens and young adults with ASD already have a difficult time connecting with others, the formation of a therapeutic relationship will be essential to effective treatment.
Finally, seek out a therapist who is open to communicating and including the parents and siblings into the therapy. ASD is a challenging struggle that impacts the whole family. There are times where ASD can have a negative impact on a marriage and the emotional well-being of siblings.
I suggest steering clear of therapists who just want to focus on the ASD client and keep the family at a distance. While the one-on-one talk therapy will be crucial for the teen or young adult, it is also important that the entire family is incorporated into the therapy.
As a therapist specializing in working with teens and young adults on the spectrum, we will be a part of your son or daughter's life for a relatively short period of time. Family will be with them for a lifetime. For long term success, it is critical that you find a therapist who includes family therapy for autism.
Katy Teen & Family Counseling:
Specializing in Counseling for Teens & Young Adults With Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
At Katy Teen & Family Counseling, we provide hope to families who have a teen or young adult struggling with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Teens and young adults on the spectrum require a teen therapist or young adult therapist who understands neurodiverse people.
Our therapist specializing in Autism or those on the spectrum, recognize the special and unique qualities of these teens and young adults. The therapist for autism will build upon the strengths while providing practical life skills.
If you are looking for a therapist who understands the unique needs of teens and young adults who are on the spectrum, we can help. If you are ready to take that first step, all you need to do is follow these three easy steps:
Contact Katy Teen & Family Counseling, PLLC
Meet with our therapist who specializes in treating autism and spectrum disorders
Start the process of restoring hope, happiness, and connected family relationships
Other Teen Therapy, Family Counseling, & Couples Therapy Services Offered at Katy Teen & Family Counseling
Peak performance (optimal academic brain performance)
Peak performance (optimal athletic brain performance)
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR Therapy)
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
About the Author
Quique (pronounced key + kay) Autrey was born in Puerto Rico and moved to the United States when he was two years old. He has been working with teens and families since 2008.
In addition to being a private practice therapist, Quique has worked with teens and families as a youth pastor.
He also helps teens and young adults who would be considered neurodiverse. Quique is a specialist in working with teens and young adults who have an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
Quique also enjoys working with couples and families helping to improve communication and relationships.
Quique has a unique ability to naturally connect with teens, families, and couples. He is authentic in his approach and genuine in his desire to help people overcome challenges and become wildly successful and happy in their lives.
If you are ready to start your teen counseling, family therapy, our couples journey, contact us today. We would be happy to schedule a phone call or in person consultation.