Being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can be life-altering. Many find relief after finally understanding things that had troubled them as children or adolescents.
Many adults with autism also struggle with other disorders like depression and anxiety, so treating those conditions may also alleviate autism symptoms.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has proven itself effective at helping those living with Autism improve their social interactions. It can assist people in breaking free of negative thought patterns which lead to feelings of anxiety, depression or low self-worth; additionally it can assist individuals to cope with difficult life situations like social exclusion, misunderstanding or hostility that trigger autistic people – as when these symptoms improve it’s often followed by improvements in other autistic characteristics like restricted interests and repetitive behavior patterns as well.
Studies conducted on adults suffering from social anxiety have demonstrated the efficacy of CBT for improving social functioning, self-reported emotional distress and depression; however, few groups have examined whether such therapies could work on those living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
Recent pre-post studies examined the benefits, tolerability, and acceptability of an adapted cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) program with social skills components for adults with autism. Participants attended 14 weekly sessions using a tailored version of Engage’s popular program which provided exposure, cognitive restructuring and in-session and out-of-session behavioral experiments – essential CBT components.
After administering their intervention, the research team identified statistically significant improvements across outcome measures. They noticed an upsurge in social anxiety levels as well as subdomains of social functioning such as motivation and engagement with others – which also saw improvements in self-reported mood levels.
Social Skills Training
Social skills training refers to any program designed to develop one’s ability to interact effectively with others. It may involve teaching specific behaviors – like maintaining eye contact during conversations – as well as strategies for initiating dialogues or asking pertinent questions. Such programs typically take place within group settings to simulate different forms of social interactions.
Many of these programs follow the principles of ABA, and are intended to teach autistic individuals to imitate neurotypical behavior and learn to cover up their autistic traits. Peer mentors and facilitators model such behaviors before allowing autistic participants to practice new social skills under guidance while receiving verbal praise when successfully replicating one or more behaviors that do not include autistic traits.
Researchers behind these programs have done much to advance them and ensure their impact by making sure skills learned can be generalized across settings and people. Unfortunately, the intensity required to make significant strides toward social interaction exceeds most existing programs’ capabilities; ultimately it will be essential to create more intensive programs which offer tangible changes in people’s abilities to navigate everyday challenges successfully.
Autistic individuals’ interoception – their ability to recognize and interpret internal body sensations — can become confused. This can disrupt emotional regulation by leaving them uncertain as to which emotions they’re feeling (alexithymia), as well as understanding if their stomach is full or thirsty (sensory processing deficits).
Individuals in need of improved body awareness could find it beneficial to work with a sensory therapist who can assist in creating strategies and practices to develop more body awareness. Such techniques might include mindfulness or meditation practices or sensory diets which increase awareness of sensations within the body.
Researchers conducted a superiority randomized controlled trial to examine whether an interoception curriculum (IC) could help autistic adults regulate emotion. Participants either self-screened on Qualtrics platform, were phone or face screened by researchers prior to being assigned into one of three intervention groups; those assigned the IC group received six sessions over three months with outcomes measured pre, mid, and post intervention.
Results indicated that the IC was effective in improving emotion regulation skills of participants, with promising results and further research required to see if this approach can assist other autistic adults struggling with emotion regulation issues.
Autistic adults face unique challenges in their lives, from communication and behavioral difficulties to managing sensory input such as noises, scents and lights. Therapy programs for autistic adults must therefore include various approaches and techniques that are tailored specifically to an individual’s needs – personalized approaches may improve quality of life and overall well-being by taking into account each person’s strengths, challenges and home environment.
Autism has a substantial effect on one’s mental health; autistic adults are five times more likely to visit emergency departments for mental-related conditions than people without developmental disabilities. Unfortunately, many autistic adults also face barriers to high-quality mental healthcare; these could include patient-level issues like needing more time establishing rapport with new providers as well as systemic factors like an unresponsive healthcare setting or limited availability of providers trained in working with autistic individuals.
Occupational therapy offers solutions for these issues through various approaches. Therapists may assist autistic adults in creating self-care routines to promote a healthier and more fulfilling lifestyle; teach them cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques (such as CBT ) for managing anxieties; leverage passions and interests of individual clients as treatment targets in order to increase sense of well-being and increase self-confidence.
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