Beyond Counseling And Therapy: Helping ASD Adults Find A Job

As a counselor and therapist with a specialization in autism, I encountered many people in the spectrum of all ages. Some were lucky to get diagnosed early, so they could get immediate treatment and lead an everyday life. Others, however, spent their formative years in regular schools, wondering why they were slower than other kids intellectually and physically. Then, their parents would only consider the possibility of them having autism when they could no longer find a college or workplace to give them an opportunity.

One of my newest clients had a similar story to the latter. His name was Sean. He was an 18-year-old teenager when I met him for the first time. His parents did not go to college, so they wanted their only son to experience it. Even if they knew that Sean was not the brightest bulb in class, they hired a slew of tutors for years to help the boy keep up with everyone.

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My husband was Sean’s new psychiatrist. I felt the need to emphasize the word “new” because Sean never met a mental health professional before my husband. His parents practically spent a fortune on finding the best tutors that their son could jive with, but they only decided to consult a psychiatrist when no college wanted to admit him.

When my husband referred the teenager to me, he suggested offering family counseling as well. I knew what that meant. I had seen enough of my clients’ families to realize that not all of them wanted to accept that they produced a child in the spectrum even if they already brought them out to seek mental help. In their minds, they were still hoping that the psychiatrists would not see anything odd in their loved one’s behavior or mentality. Thus, they could go back to believing that their son or daughter was merely slower than everybody else.

Is that healthy? Of course not.

Counseling Sean

I must say that Sean had already been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome before his parents set up an appointment with me. The news was already out of the bag, and all significant parties had been informed. From what my husband told me, the moment dad took it the hard way, given how much they cried throughout the diagnosis face and even afterward. I knew from there that I needed to help Sean’s family along the way, not only him.

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But first things first – our primary goal was to help the boy. The parents were aware that sending Sean to college was currently not in the cards; it might take years before he could be ready for it. Besides, Sean mentioned that he did not even like studying, so it was not advisable to push him to do something he did not want to do. So, the next best step for him was to find a job.

“What are your hobbies, Sean?” I asked him once.

“I like building LEGO figures, making coffee for mom and dad, and identifying different linens,” he replied.

After that, I encouraged Sean’s parents to look up nearby toy stores, cafés, and linen shops that hired young people with autism. This introductory experience would be ideal for Sean as it would allow him to interact with different individuals and learn the importance of accountability. They eventually informed me that they went with Starbucks since it was only a walking distance from their home. Still, that’s not the only deciding factor for Sean’s family.

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“Our son loved the environment there,” his mother informed me. “It’s never too crowded, so it won’t be overwhelming for Sean. He already knew some of the employees there, too. Best of all, they would train him to become a barista, which he seemed excited about.”

Excitement was a positive sign indeed. People in the autism spectrum were known for not being in tune with their emotions, but they knew how to express their likes and dislikes. And if they liked an activity, you could almost always bet that they would be into it for a long time.

Fast Forward To 2021

Sean had to stop working at his local Starbucks branch during the pandemic last year, which deeply upset him. His parents sought mental help again for their son to make sure that he would not do anything drastic.

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When I talked to Sean, he articulated how bored he was at home. After acknowledging his feelings, I told him that he did not need to stop being a barista just because his workplace was closed temporarily. “Your parents and sisters can be your customers for now. You can take their orders every day,” I suggested.

That seemed to lighten up Sean, and that’s how he spent most of his quarantining days. Sometimes, my husband and I would swing by his place to get our “orders” and check on him as well.

Things got better come 2021 when Sean’s workplace reopened. He resumed working there, and last I heard, they were preparing him to do a barista workshop for other young adults with autism.

Frequently Asked Questions: What Is CBT Psychology, And What Are Its Benefits?

Have you recently been in a stressful or traumatic situation that you’re still not over with? Do you frequently experience troubles at work, at school, or with your family and other relationships? Do you have experience with addiction, whether personally or with someone else that you know? Do you feel that you need help in overcoming the challenges that have come your way? There are so many different kinds of problems that we can be facing. However, the important question is, do you know healthy and effective ways of coping with these problems?

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CBT is a widely used form of psychotherapy to improve mental health. One of its core concepts is that our unhelpful thoughts and behaviors partially cause our psychological problems. This approach has been around for many years, with specific steps as its foundation. CBT can be used to treat a broad range of conditions. Also, while it cannot treat autism, it can help treat secondary conditions such as anxiety. CBT-based strategies are beneficial whether or not you are diagnosed with a mental health condition. As long as you are looking for healthier ways to cope with your problems, CBT can be good for you.

We might be unconsciously applying CBT strategies in our daily life. A professional psychologist can help us easily identify the effects of our thoughts on our daily life. Our cognitive processes have a significant impact on our behavior. CBT may seem like a simple process, but there are many research and scientific concepts behind the method.

Challenges are a part of life. However, these should not affect our overall quality of life. If your problems lead to depression, anxiety, or other emotional and mental difficulties, and you need help in dealing with these issues, CBT might be a strategy that you can use. Read the following FAQ if you are interested to learn more about its possible applications:

 

What are the benefits of CBT?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps you manage overwhelming issues more realistically by disintegrating them into smaller portions. You are taught how to modify these negative patterns to enhance your behaviors and emotions. Unlike other talking therapies, CBT attempts to manage a person’s current problems instead of concentrating on his problems.

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Is Psychology a CBT?

CBT is a psychological therapy that has been proven to be effective for various problems, including anxiety, marital conflicts, depression, severe mental disorders, eating disorders, and drug and alcohol use problems.

 

What is CBT, and how does it work?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy works by modifying people’s behaviors and attitudes by concentrating on their beliefs, thoughts, images, and attitudes. They hold and how these processes are associated with how an individual acts and behaves when dealing with emotional problems.

 

What are three of the goals of cognitive-behavioral therapy? 

Below are the three basic goals of cognitive-behavioral therapy:

  • To assist the individual in modifying essential cognitive structures to prevent relapse
  • To alleviate symptoms and find a solution to the individual’s problems
  • To help the individual learn how to learn skills and coping techniques.

What is the focus of cognitive-behavioral therapy?

CBT focuses on altering the autonomic nervous thought patterns that can aggravate depression, emotional difficulties, and anxiety.

 

What are the key principles of CBT?

Below are the fundamental principles of CBT:

  • CBT needs a rigorous therapeutic alliance.
  • CBT is founded on a constantly growing creation of patient problems and a personalized conceptualization of each individual in terms of his cognition.
  • CBT prioritizes active participation and collaboration.
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People, including children, are now beginning to value their mental health just as much as other aspects of life. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is one of the effective approaches to achieve better mental, psychological, and emotional health. This is possible through understanding how our thoughts and behavior affect our everyday life. We can find ways to change our behaviors and attitude by employing effective coping strategies.

For CBT to be effective, the therapist and individual must participate and collaborate through a rigorous therapeutic alliance. With a clear and common goal, you will learn the skills needed to cope with a difficult problem you are facing. You will also develop a better thinking structure to know how to deal with a similar future situation. Eventually, debilitating thoughts won’t hinder you from solving your problems.

As a form of psychotherapy, CBT does have many benefits, unlike other forms of therapy. Instead of dwelling too much on the reasons for your problems, CBT has a problem-focused and collaborative approach. Through CBT, you will learn how to break down a big problem and deal with individual pieces appropriately. You will also learn how to change your negative thoughts and behaviors.

CBT is meant for everyone facing a problem they cannot resolve, whether or not you’re diagnosed with a mental condition. The therapy process is designed to help people be mindful of their own automatic and subconscious thought patterns. People with anxiety, depression, and substance abuse benefit from CBT to help them face their worries and fears. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, alongside other non-pharmacologic interventions, shows promising benefits for children with autism.

Do you think you need cognitive behavioral therapy to help deal with personal issues in life? Do you know a child with autism who needs help connecting with others? If so, then you might need to consult with a cognitive-behavioral therapist. Their years of knowledge and experience in CBT have helped countless people improve their mental health.

 

Managing COVID-19: Sensory Activities For Children With Autism

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A stay-at-home setup can be particularly difficult for children living with autism. Since they can’t go to their special school or attend therapy, their daily routine gets disrupted, bringing more stress into their everyday lives.

“Depending on developmental levels, the difficulty of understanding why a routine is disrupted, how long it’s going to last, wondering when it’s over—all of that adds a lot of unknowns. It can add anxiety,” reveals Donna Murray, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, Adjunct Associate Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Vice President at Autism Speaks for Clinical Programs and Head of the Autism Treatment Network.

If your child undergoes meltdowns because of the stress brought about by this global pandemic, then your go-to strategy is applying sensory activities. Sensory plays help regulate and prevent stress for those with this disorder. It not only distracts them from the environmental stressors around, but it also stimulates their five senses. This method develops fundamental life skills, improves creativity, and facilitates understanding.

With this in mind, here are some of the best sensory activities you can do with your kid with autism while in lockdown.

Paint With Shaving Cream

Children adore playing with shaving cream. That’s good since this is probably one of the cheapest sensory items out there. To start, spray some unscented shaving cream on a large and spacey countertop or a large container and let your child play with it. He or she may create the most creative artwork possible.

If you want to add a little bit of sizzle to this activity, you may incorporate a couple of drops of food coloring or tempera paint to the shaving cream. It will add a little excitement to your kid’s masterpiece.

Homemade Musical Instruments

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You have an option to buy the most expensive musical instruments for your child. Are you aware, however, that building these treasures can be as exciting and fun as playing with them? Check out some ideas below:

  • Drums: Use plastic tubs as the drums itself and wooden spoons as the beater
  • Shakers: Fill empty plastic bottles with either dried beans or rice
  • Chimes: Attach shells or bottle tops on a string and hang them

Sensory Bottle

In this activity, you will need an old plastic bottle as your primary tool. Once you have gotten one, add a mix of water, a few drops of food coloring, and a pinch of glitter to create an eye-catching and unique toy for your kid. You may also drop a couple of marbles and buttons to keep the sensory bottle more colorful and exciting. After placing everything inside, seal the lid tightly through the use of a hot glue gun.

This activity may look simple, but it’s an excellent way for your kid to learn about the importance of focus and engagement.

Shredded Paper Bins

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Kids love treasure hunts. Shredded paper bins work the same with that of treasure hunts – only that your child doesn’t have to run around the whole house.

The first thing that you should do is to look for scrap papers, either from magazines, old books, old documents, or used notebooks. Then, shred this using a shredder. The tiny bits you get from this should be placed on an empty bin. Make sure that you fill-up the container, or the activity won’t be as successful as you plan.

Once you have established your paper bin, drop small items into it. These may range from toys, utensils, little books, and other accessories that can camouflage with the shredded papers. After, create a list for your kid, which he or she will use as a guide to finding the ‘hidden treasures.’ All he or she has to do is to dig around and tick everything on the list. Simple as that!

Food Tasting Game

In this activity, you aim to let your child taste various types of food while blindfolded. He or she should be able to guess it in just three tries. As a parent, it is within your discretion on what you’ll place in your ‘menu’ – it may depend on what your kid likes or dislikes.

Keep in mind, however, that this food tasting game can also be a platform to introduce new textures and tastes. Your choices may revolve around bananas, yogurt, cereal, tomato sauce, jelly, rice cakes, and more.

This pandemic might be placing massive stress on everyone’s shoulders. But as a parent, you should look for ways that will ease the burden experienced by your child, and as mentioned, sensory activities can be your solution. So go and try all of these games now!

Savant Syndrome Is Not A Disease

Dealing with any developmental deficiency can cause complicated and conflicting issues within the person and their families. Each type of disorder is not tailored-cut where attention and support are made all throughout every affected individual. There are also those persons, the “gifted ones,” that are explicitly considered unique and may need more interventions than what medical literature has to offer.

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Continue reading Savant Syndrome Is Not A Disease

How To Help Adults Cope With Sensory Overload

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As a person who has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome a few years back, I can tell you how difficult life can be for someone on the spectrum. I have a high-functioning form of autism, which means that I was able to go to a regular school and earn a bachelor’s degree. I have a stable job and am engaged to be married soon as well. Despite the normalcy that I experienced, though, it could not erase the fact that I was – still am – as prone to sensory overload as the next autistic individual you can find.

“Asperger’s Syndrome (Autism Spectrum Disorder) is more common that we realize and there are increasing numbers of high-functioning adults who are self-identifying or being diagnosed.” –Eva A. Mendes LMHC

If I can be too honest here, my only edge over folks with low-functioning autism is that I can follow instructions. I am not “in the zone” all the time, although I admittedly like to be left alone often. I can easily pass as a non-disabled person if you meet me for the first time. However, when you check my social skills, you will realize that it is almost non-existent.

One of the aspects I struggle with up to this day is sensory overload. We tend to be too one-track-minded folks to know the difference between a real or sarcastic comment. Attending parties is practically impossible without having a meltdown. Sometimes, when stress gets in the mix, our brains go on hyperdrive, and we can no longer control our actions and emotions.

Still, I choose to believe that sensory overload is a problem that we can all learn to cope with. If it gives you a headache as well, you may try some of the things that I do.

Pinpoint Your Triggers

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The first thing to do is to find out what your triggers may be. In my case, for instance, I cannot stand noises. Shouting, blasting music, blaring horns — these are just a few sources of noise. For other people, they cannot handle pulsing lights or even colorful walls. You should realize your triggers so that you will know what to avoid. “We all experience these ups and downs, and most of the time we get through the downs and move on to better times.” says Dr. Kurt Smith, LMFT, LPCC, AFC.

Bring Useful Devices Everywhere

Prevention will always be better than cure. It is not wrong to put noise-canceling headphones, ear pods, or even sunglasses in your bag. These are devices that will help you in times when you find yourself in an overwhelming situation.

Make A Plan Before Going Anywhere

“Research shows the biggest boost in happiness comes from planning the vacation.” Shannon Torberg, PsyD, LP said. It will not hurt either to make a plan before you go anywhere. Imagine the place as the first step. Think of what you will do if you hear loud music or you are in the middle of the crowd. Figure out as well where you should sit or stand so that you can be as far away from your triggers as possible.

Let Your Friends Or Relatives Know About The Plan

Lastly, you should know that the plan may not always succeed if you act it out by yourself. Considering you will go to an event with friends or relatives, you need to inform them about it. This way, they can remind you of it when things become too much for your senses.

Final Thoughts

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Living with any form of autism will never be easy, regardless if it’s high- or low-functioning. However, life must go on, and you need to try to make the situation better for yourself. Follow the tips mentioned above to be able to do that.

Good luck!

Tips Before Donating To Autism-Related Organizations

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Next to orphaned kids and elderlies who got abandoned by families, giving back to people with autism can warm your heart. At a glance, they seem to hardly show any emotion. When you talk to them while they are doing something they love, it is already a blessing if you even get them to look at you. They typically like to stay in their own world, and no one can pull them out of it.

The first time I tried to do something nice for autistic kids, I decided to volunteer for a non-profit organization. I was only 15 years old at the time. I had no job to earn money from; I could not ask my parents to send what little savings we had to the group. So, whenever they held an event for children with autism, I made sure that I was there to at least distribute foods or help decorate the entire place.

When I got my first full-time job at 23, therefore, you could imagine my happiness. It was not because I could finally buy the latest clothes and gadgets but because it meant that I would have money to donate to autism-related organizations. That had been my dream ever since I was a teenager, after all.

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Despite that, I was aware of bogus institutions that claimed to help people on the spectrum but honestly do anything but that. While I was lucky to get to know the real ones at a young age, you might not be able to say the same, especially if it’s your first time to consider doing it. So, here are some tips before donating to autism-related organizations.

Know The Cause You Want To Support

The first thing that you need to ask yourself is, “What type of activities do I want to support?”

The truth is that different foundations have specific goals. One may want to bring more autistic kids to school, for instance, while another may aim to help them get proper treatment. You should be sure of what causes you wish to support so that you will be able to find the right group(s).

Verify The Organization’s Credibility

As mentioned above, not all organizations have real intentions to assist psychologically challenged individuals. Many of them may accept your money and use it for their personal gain. You cannot trust the photos of happy kids on their website either.

What you need to do is to conduct a background check on a specific organization. Find out about their financial status, to be precise, as well as the programs that they currently have. It is the only way for you to know how credible they are.

Go To Groups’ Events 

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People say that nothing beats first-hand experience. This idea is applicable even for autism-related organizations.

Assuming you have narrowed down your list of charitable institutions, you should see if they have upcoming events that you can attend. You don’t have to commit before going there; your goal is to figure out if they are a perfect fit for your cause. That will be easy for you to deduce when you see the genuine smiles on everyone’s faces and how the volunteers interact with people.

 

Once you have done all that and more, you can make sure that you will be donating to the right autism-related organization(s). Cheers!