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Autism Treatment in South Florida

Autism Treatment South Florida

Autism Treatment South Florida

Psychological health problems are far more common in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) than previously realized.  Failure to recognize and address them in a timely and effective way is associated with poorer treatment outcomes.

The diagnosis and treatment of Autism in South Florida, as anywhere else, is complicated by factors including:

  1. Difficulty disentangling co-occurring psychological conditions from developmentally based communication, sensory-motor functioning, behavior, socialization, and learning problems.
  2. The inherent problems that those with Autism Spectrum Disorders have in expressing, or even recognizing, when they are experiencing psychological health issues.
  3. Identifying and accessing effective programs or practitioners.

Some of the psychological difficulties occurring in ASDs aren’t all that different than those in the general population: they include depression, social anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, ADHD, eating disorders, impulse control disorders, and thought disorders.  They are also susceptible to problems such as eating disorders and addictions (including cyber addiction and gambling).

Why are psychological health issues found in Autism?  A better question is, “Why wouldn’t they be?”  Individuals with ASDs are more predisposed toward having more general medical problems from birth, ergo they have increased risk factors for mental health issues too.  Moreover, just having an ASD correlates with experiencing various stresses that further magnify their inherent vulnerabilities.  These two factors often feed off of one another in a vicious, progressive cycle.

Once psychological health issues are recognized, the next step is getting the necessary help.  Finding clinicians or programs that have experience with ASDs and are committed to utilizing evidence-based interventions is essential for this process.  Although there are many areas still lacking well-trained and knowledgeable practitioners, awareness about ASDs has been spreading so the chances of finding the right kinds of assistance are probably much better than even just a few years ago.

The key is developing a practical treatment plan that corresponds to targeted needs, is specifically tailored to ASDs.  A comprehensive treatment plan often includes further diagnostic testing, medication, structured psychological or behavioral interventions, educational support, social skills groups, or modalities such as equine, speech and language, physical, or occupational therapies.  In the most challenging circumstances, inpatient or residential placement may turn out to be the best option.  However, since every person with an ASD has unique personal attributes and situations, the importance of individualized treatment and case management cannot be over-emphasized.

Accounts of “too good to be true” promises of “cures” made to distressed and often desperate parents and other caregivers are far too common.   This of course wastes valuable time and money.  This is unfortunate, as early and effective intervention is likely to yield the best long-term results for most psychological health issues.

While there is no “magic potion” for addressing the psychological health issues of those with ASDs, consistent and appropriate treatment can be quite effective, given an adequate chance to work.  It helps to remember that treating psychological health issues in general is slow, frustrating, and complicated enough- so imagine how much more so the process is likely to be in the case of interventions for ASDs.  Therefore, an attitude of patience and having realistic expectations regarding the progress of the patient as well as with the effectiveness of the treatment plan is highly recommended.

Fortunately, this is an era when patients with ASDs and their families have increasing opportunities to receive the attention and support they require to make meaningful progress and enjoy a better quality of life.  Ongoing advancements in the research and development of effective therapies for ASD-related psychological health problems offer even further promise for the future.

By Jonathan Hoffman, Ph.D., ABPP