Mental Health Counseling

Full Video – 5 minutes

Hi and welcome back. In this short video we’ll discuss the benefits of therapy and family counseling for families who have a child with a developmental delay. Counseling also supports the parents, who can really be suffering when they face challenges reaching their child.  

First, it’s important to understand that psychological counseling, counseling, or therapy, is not effective treatment for toddlers with a developmental delay. These children need behavioral therapy and intervention. 

Traditional psychological counseling and therapy typically involves a discussion of feelings and emotions. Toddlers are obviously not ready for that. 

For parents, however, counseling can help them deal with emotional strain from the significant challenges they face. Parenting a child with a disability can put a strain on marriages and couple’s relationships. 

More than anything, parents want to see their child happy, independent and successful.  So, they do everything you can to support your son or daughter.  

However, that can leave you exhausted most of the time. Half the time you question yourself and worry you are doing something wrong.  So much of your life is taken up with trying to advocate for, teach and support your child.  Still, it doesn’t seem like enough.  Social situations seem difficult for them and there is more conflict in your home than you want to admit.  You find yourself putting your child first until you have no energy left.

You are not alone. A trained and experienced counselor can help. They can understand not only challenges your family faces, but also what has helped other parents and their children. Through either individual counseling sessions or a support group for mothers of children of children with developmental conditions like autism, you can find the support and guidance you need to be your best you – for your child, your family, and yourself.

Adolescents and teens with autism struggle with depression, anxiety, relationships, and engaging in activities not part of their restricted interests. Ongoing difficulty interpreting and responding to social cues, relatively low social motivation, and isolation frequently interfere with relationships throughout the lifespan. Research shows that individuals diagnosed with ASD are also at increased risk for depression beginning in adolescence when they develop increased awareness of their difficulty establishing peer relationships, a pivotal developmental task during the adolescent phase. 

In addition to behavioral intervention, psychological counseling and therapy can be very helpful to these kiddos. 

If you think counseling may be helpful to you or a family member, you can find a qualified clinician through speaking with your regular nurse or doctor. You are not alone.  

Some things you should look for in a clinician include specific training and experience in providing therapy for ASD individuals and their families and a treatment model utilizing evidence-based interventions such as cognitive behavioral therapy. 

Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the provider’s background and qualifications – a competent clinician should be able to answer any questions and address any specific concerns you may have. 

A skilled counselor or therapist understands these unique challenges and can work effectively with the individual with autism and his or her family to improve daily functioning and quality of life.

Please remember the information in this program is not meant to diagnose or treat. It should not take the place of consultation with a qualified healthcare professional.

1. ABA for Autism Isn’t “One Size Fits All”

A professional behavioral therapist, trained and certified in ABA, will develop an individualized plan for the specific needs of each child. In all cases, however, they will measure the child’s observable progress learning specific skills, such as making a snack or using words. The behavioral therapist will chart these observable results to clearly see what is working and what is not.

ABA can help improve children’s communication skills, sharpen focus and attention, develop social skills and more. It is a fully customizable approach that allows therapists to be creative and adjust to the needs of the child, which increases the possibility of bringing about meaningful and positive change.

2. Progress Is Measured Over Time

When a child with ASD first begins a behavioral treatment, or ABA, plan, his or her therapist will identify individual goals. Therapists typically begin with simple, manageable goals, and then move onto more complex goals.

As the treatment plan progresses, therapists record specific results – or data, which they share with other advisors, as well as with parents and caregivers.

The data shows the therapist and parent how well the child is progressing, and how and when adjustments should be made to the treatment plan.

Consistently monitoring children’s progress is a key factor in ABA’s success. As their needs fluctuate, a child’s treatment plan is adjusted.

3. Learning Happens Everywhere

Although parents and caregivers may bring children to a clinic or may get therapy services in their home, it’s important to know that learning happens everywhere and all the time. This is a crucial part of the ABA philosophy.

Children can perform a task or skill with the support of their therapist, and should then practice their newly acquired skills in a variety of different environments. Going out into the “real world,” like the library, the playground or a restaurant gives children the chance to transfer their new skills to real life. This is what’s known as “generalization” and it’s a very important part of success.   

Parents are absolutely crucial to the success of an ABA or behavioral intervention program because they spend more time than anyone with their children and they know their children better than anyone else. 

Parents and caregivers must understand the skills their children are learning and should help the child generalize those skills.

4. ABA Isn’t About Punishment

Boiled down, ABA rewards preferred behaviors and gives consequences for undesired behaviors. Some people misunderstand what “consequences” means in this context.

It’s especially important to understand that ABA for autism is not about punishing children with autism when they demonstrate undesired behavior.

ABA therapists often use positive reinforcement to reward desired behaviors, but consequences might simply be the withholding of that positive reinforcement or reward. Learning within the ABA environment should be positive and enjoyable, helping children want to learn and grow.

5. Parental Reinforcement of ABA in the Home is Crucial

Parental involvement in ABA therapy is critical to its success. Sharing insight on the behaviors, triggers, responses, and preferences of your child will enable your child’s therapist to create an effective treatment plan and guide adjustments to the treatment plan ongoing.

Parents are crucial to helping their kids generalize the skills they are learning. Parents are in the best position to expose children to real-world situations in which they apply their newly developed skills. 

Many ABA therapy programs will offer regular sessions for parents, during which they train parents to support their children’s learning and skills maintenance at home.

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