Why would someone with autism spectrum disorder or Asperger syndrome want to see a counsellor?
I have a personal interest in helping those on the spectrum. As a mother to a nine-year-old non-verbal autistic boy, I understand the challenges autistic clients endure on a daily basis and the impact that it has on their family, friends and loved ones.
So much of what we communicate to each other in social interaction is non-verbal – turn taking, gestures, body language, tone of voice, intonation, facial expressions, personal space, humour, eye contact.
I am also interested when difficulties occur in interpersonal communication. I have an understanding of and an interest in autism and Asperger’s.
What problems do people with autism spectrum disorder/Asperger’s experience?
Individuals with autism spectrum disorder/Asperger’s often experience emotional problems; have difficulties with understanding social interaction; have limiting beliefs about themselves, others and the world; have repetitive routines; have sensory integration difficulties. Autism spectrum disorder/Asperger syndrome are developmental disorders.
Many people with autism/Asperger’s experience depression, anxiety, confusion, frustration, low self-esteem and social isolation. They may also have problems coping with uncertainty, feeling out of control and managing stress as well as having difficulties controlling their feelings and behaviour.
People who are autistic or have Asperger’s often have difficulties with understanding idioms in day-to-day life (eg ‘it’s raining cats and dogs’) as they take communication on a very literal level. Fixed repetitive routines may provide reassurance for individuals with autism spectrum disorder or Asperger’s, but these routines can also hinder social interaction and may create anxiety.
Some individuals with autism spectrum disorder or Asperger’s can exhibit self-harming behaviour. Others can experience problems with sensory difficulties (processing the different senses in day to day life) and/or extreme sensitivity to sensory sensations(eg sensitivity to noise, intolerance of a certain colour, irritation at labels in clothes etc).
How will counselling help someone who is autistic or has Asperger’s?
Counselling can help challenge any limiting beliefs they may have about themselves, others and the world. Examples of limiting beliefs are black/white thinking, perfectionism, minimising their own opinions while over valuing the opinions of others, generalising, not seeing the bigger picture, avoiding taking responsibility for difficulties in life, feeling hopeless/ helpless to change situations.
Counselling can also boost self-esteem by practicing social skills (eg small talk, turn taking) in role play situations and using visual prompts. Gradually changing routines can increase confidence and self-esteem.
Counselling can also help soothe feelings. Emotions are unpredictable and because individuals take things literally and find imagining things difficult, they can find understanding and managing emotions – in themselves and others – disorientating and frightening.
Counselling works by helping you understand the anxiety, which in turn helps you manage the symptoms better.
Parents, Carers & Siblings
I also offer counselling to the families of those struggling or accepting a new diagnosis of autism.