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Often Overlooked: Autism and Mental Illness

Today I thought I'd write about something that is often overlooked in the community.  Autism (ASD) and mental illness.  According to the DSM-5, it is estimated that 70% of individuals who have a diagnosis of Autism also have an additional (co-occurring) mental health disorder diagnosis.  Additionally, 40% of individuals with Autism are estimated to have two or more additional mental health disorders.  While there is an abundance of focus on the effectiveness of ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) and helping individuals modify their behaviors; often times I've found that some people with Autism don't get the opportunity to have their symptoms of depression, anxiety, trauma, family turmoil, etc. processed and treated.  I have had an amazing experience working with so many individuals with Autism over the years by providing that missing piece.  By utilizing a combination of cognitive behavioral, interpersonal, and/or play therapy techniques that are custom designed for each individual I have worked with; I have witnessed great decreases in behavioral outbursts and alleviation of symptoms of depression and anxiety.  With difficulty initiating social engagement or spontaneously offering information, individuals with autism are sometimes left feeling isolated and alone with their thoughts as they face a significantly more difficult barrier in communicating their feelings than people who are not diagnosed with ASD.  

If you have a child or someone close to you that has Autism; remember to check-in with them often and ask them how their day is going, how they are feeling, and ask if they have experienced any positive and/or difficult interactions at school, work, the playground. etc.  It can truly make a difference in their day! :)

-Dr. Dana

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