As a young counselor, my first work before receiving my master’s degree was a case manager and facilitator at Judivine-A Center for Autism. At the same time, I was Big Brother to three emotionally disturbed adolescent boys as a volunteer through Big Brothers/Big Sisters. My training was essential on a basic level, and the experience even more so for the work I accomplished working with the behaviorally, emotionally, and socially disordered adolescent population.
At present and on average, I see a case each month with a male adolescent presenting characteristics of ASD; the majority of the time by the time they get to me they have not been diagnosed correctly.
The challenge to get an accurate ASD diagnosis is this, it is unique and there is a very specific set of exhibited characteristics. It’s of utmost importance that a Licensed Professional; a Medical Doctor (MD), Psychologist (PhD), or Counselor/Social Worker (MA, MSW) trained in Asperger's Syndrome make an assessment and the diagnosis.
One of the most damaging things that I hear in my practice is when a teacher at school tells mom in front of the child that they “think they may have” Asperger’s Syndrome (ASD).
Here are some of the sign’s parents should watch for:
- an insistence on routines
- aversion to change
- sensory sensitivities - which may interfere with eating, sleeping, and make routine care difficult (e.g., haircuts, dental hygiene)
- severe emotional mood swings (home and/or school)
In school ASD students exhibit:
- difficulties in planning
- difficulties with organization
- difficulties with change
- a lack of social and communication abilities (which may hamper learning through social interaction or in settings with peers)
Autism Spectrum Disorder is diagnosed four times more often in males than in females.
First, remind parents their child is not broken because their needs are different! The most important need is
hugs from his family; in a tactile environment they will thrive!
I have documented great success in working with male adolescents diagnosed with ASD in The Quest Project® .
Based on my experience I offer the following advice.
Get a case manager and/or assigned advocate for the child. A patient advocate shadows the individual and keeps record of changes in behavior, emotion, and community involvement and reports immediately to the case manager. Additionally, an in-home therapist is extremely important as the characteristics of ASD dictates an aversion to any routine changes, it will lessen the potential to regress and need a higher level of care.
Parents need to be proactive and insist on the things listed above at a minimum. With moderate cases of ASD, opting for home schooling is a reasonable choice if possible. Additionally, enrolling in an on-going group that teaches social skills, emotional regulation (critical), anger management, and communication skills can be helpful.
For more information on this and other topics follow Dr. Clayton Lessor on social media:
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Clayton Lessor, PhD, LPC founded The Quest Project in 1996 and has since helped 2,000+ boys turn their life around to become the next Generation of Men. He is the author of two books, “Saving Our Sons-A Parent’s Guide to Preparing Boys for Success” and “Generation of Men-How to raise your son to be a healthy man among men.” Dr. Clay is an expert in childhood trauma and male adolescent development.