There’s an expression that if you’ve met one person with Autism, that means you’ve met one person with autism. Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, is a very individualized condition that results in social and communication challenges. One person with autism can have challenges that are completely different than another person’s. Therefore, in order to help them standardized approaches will not work. More on this later!
ASD is something that most people have heard of yet most do not fully understand. According to the CDC, in 2018 1 out of every 59 children born had ASD and by far this was something that affected boys more than girls. When a person has ASD, they will typically also have another developmental or mental health condition. ADHD, anxiety, anger, learning disabilities, and others often appear when somebody is autistic. Sleep problems are also common – and since poor sleep on its own can impact concentration, mood, energy levels, and cognition it is not surprising that being autistic is often a real challenge.
What worries me the most is the lack of focus on lifetime support for people with autism. In Ontario, we have been hearing for months about the governments plans for supporting autistic children and teens. Whether you are in favour or opposed, what is clear is that there is no real discussion about how to support adolescents as they become young, then middle aged, and then elderly adults. According to Autism Speaks Canada, in 2019 an estimated 50,000 teens with autism will lose their school-based supports once they become adults.
Psychotherapy is an important and often effective way to support a person with autism as they get older. For children under the age of 10-12, Applied Behavioural Therapy (ABA) and Intense Behavioural Intervention (IBI) can be effective when tailored to the individual client. For teens and adults, it is recommended that they work with a therapist to learn how to manage their anxiety and role play behaviours for challenging situations.