Autism Spectrum Disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects one’s communication, perceptions and interaction with their environment alongside the presence of restrictive and repetitive patterns of behaviour, activities or interests. The range and severity of symptoms vary greatly among individuals, with severity being associated with the level of support required.
Levels of ASD:
Level 1: Requiring Support: Inflexibility, poor organisation, planning, difficulties with switching between activities impacting independence. Poor social skills with significant challenges in initiating interactions and making friends may be deemed awkward and unsuccessful.
Level 2: Requiring Substantial Support: Marked difficulties in verbal and nonverbal social communication skills. Notable unusual, restricted, repetitive behaviours, with noticeable difficulties in focusing and/or changing activities.
Level 3: Requiring Very Substantial Support: Severe difficulties in verbal and nonverbal communication. Very limited speech, odd, repetitive behaviour with only basic needs being expressed usually non-verbally.
The aim of diagnosis and treatment is to engage with the “neurodiversity paradigm”, which simply put to recognise that ASD is a natural part of human variation which provides only enriches the community. Due to how ASD affects each independent person differently, treatment focuses on the person’s unique strengths to supporting both clients and their loved ones in recognising and appreciating that they are equally valid and that there are alternative ways of being within the world. Commonly, this means that treatment plans involve a multidisciplinary team of Psychologists, Occupational Therapists, Speech Pathologists and/or Paediatricians/General Practitioners alongside parent-mediated treatment plans.
Treatment with a Psychologist predominantly focuses on emotional regulation and social skills training across the lifespan. For older children, teenagers and adults on the spectrum, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is the treatment of choice. CBT is a “talking therapy” that provides clients with a safe space to challenge and replace negative thinking patterns with realistic and positive thoughts. Relaxation strategies and techniques are incorporated into treatment to help individuals cope with anxiety-provoking situations.
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