Autism Spectrum Therapy

Do You Or Your Child Have A Hard Time Adhering To Neurotypical Standards?

Are you a parent seeking counseling and support for your adolescent or teen with autism? Or are you an adult that suspects you fall somewhere on the spectrum? Do you or your child experience symptoms of anxiety, depression, or behavioral setbacks as you struggle to conform to a neurotypical world? Our autism spectrum therapy approach can help.

If you’re the parent of an autistic, you may feel like the support your adolescent or teen receives often doesn’t understand their individual needs and autism traits. Perhaps you have to battle with school administrators or guidance counselors to get your child appropriate services and accommodations. You may be worried that your child has to wear a figurative mask or behave in a way that is ultimately inauthentic to who they are, creating a sense of self-doubt, and disconnect. Or that their therapies only focus on addressing behaviors and don’t adequately support your child’s social and emotional needs as well.

These concerns may translate into various mental health challenges. Your adolescent or teen could be exhibiting symptoms of depression, anxiety, trauma, and/or OCD tendencies. If this is the case, you may have sought the counsel of a therapist in the past, but they lacked experience working with neurodivergent populations or providing trauma-informed and affirming care.  

Some Adults Do Not Realize They’re On The Spectrum

Alternatively, you may be an adult who has struggled throughout life, unsure of why you’ve always felt different from those around you. Maybe you find your day-to-day routine grinding or even unmanageable, as you spend so much energy trying to appear “normal” (also known as masking). You may have trouble relating to others, or perhaps you experience extreme social anxiety, which, in turn, impacts your relationships and daily functioning. 

It’s possible you are beginning to feel the cumulative stress of spending your life feeling unaccepted and misunderstood. However, by exploring your experiences with a therapist, you can start to cultivate, what we like to call, “intentional authenticity” as you learn your way out of the behaviors and patterns that no longer serve you. 

Whether you’re the parent of a child with autism or an adult on the spectrum, counseling can provide you with support and guidance. 

What Is Autism And Who Has It?

Before we dive into our approach to therapy, it’s important to know a few things about autism. Autism is a neurodevelopmental condition that impacts social, communication, and behavioral functioning. Signs of autism often include interpersonal challenges. There can be difficulties in reading social and emotional cues. Autism traits can include trouble reciprocating emotions as well as social interactions. There can be hurdles in communication skills, and struggles with initiating or maintaining relationships.

Some autistic individuals experience behavioral setbacks. There may be restrictive, repetitive patterns, creating an intense preoccupation with certain activities, interests, and conversational topics for those who are verbal. Autism can impact an individual’s motor skills, as with “stimming” (repetitive motor movements), or manifest in strong adversity to changes in plans or routines. It’s common for autistic individuals to be hypo- or hyper-sensitive to sensory and auditory stimuli. Finally, the toll of masking can lead to burn out, emotional dysregulation and meltdowns.

The most recent data from the CDC now estimates that one in 44 children are autistic, noting that the autism spectrum is four times more common in boys than girls. However, we continue to learn more and more about how signs of autism vary across gender.

Autism Awareness & Acceptance Is On The Rise, But We’re Still Living In A Neurotypical World

Though characteristics of autism spectrum typically are noticeable in childhood, there are increasing numbers of adults who identify as autistic or suspect that their condition was overlooked when they were younger. Rates of diagnosis have been on the rise due to the fact that we are creating more awareness, acceptance, and better evaluation methods. 

Beyond the social, communication, emotional and behavioral setbacks that neurodivergent individuals experience in a neurotypical world, other serious mental health issues often co-occur with autism. Research shows that close to 40 percent of autistics struggle with some form of anxiety and that symptoms of depression, OCD, and PTSD are also prevalent among the population. 

Unfortunately, children and adults with autism are often held to neurotypical standards or are misunderstood by clinicians who fail to affirm their identity. However, at our practice, we don’t like to pathologize autism —rather, we are committed to acknowledging and celebrating the characteristics that make our autistic clients unique. 

Many autism specialty therapies focus on early intervention approaches and young children with autism. However, as autistics develop through adolescence, teen years and mature into young adulthood they often need support. As well, they typically age out of specialized services by age 18. Therefore, it is our goal to support individuals in these stages of life with autism so that they can have a safe place to explore independence and experience a successful transition to adulthood. At Spectrum Connections Therapy, we offer mental health support to adolescents, teens, and adults across the autism spectrum (level 1) so that our clients can learn to thrive not just survive.

Therapy Gives You A Chance To Understand And Embrace Your Autism

Autism is a lifelong identity, therefore, our therapists wholeheartedly believe that the function of counseling is to help autistic individuals affirm, embrace, and celebrate their strengths. 

Working with our autism specialists, you or your child will better understand autistic traits and how they impact your daily life and relationships. By learning to live mindfully and intentionally, you can move towards an authentic life while minimizing the stress from masking. 

Therapy begins with an intake that will span a few sessions as we get to know you and your needs. If you’re the parent of an adolescent or teen with autism, treatment will include individual counseling for your child as well as elements of parenting coaching that can reinforce what’s learned in each session. We will make sure the therapy process is collaborative for the family, as appropriate, while using a family systems and relational lens in our approach.

In addition, whether you are a parent of a child or an adult who suspects a diagnosis of autism, we can provide you with a referral for a full evaluation and assessment with several of our trusted community partners and Denver network. 

The Therapeutic Approach at Spectrum Connections Therapy

Our clinicians have a background in clinical psychology, family systems, behavior therapy and trauma-informed therapeutic approaches, as well as decades of personal and professional experience working with neurodivergent individuals and families. In fact, our practice owner, Dr. Nicole Gurash, is the mother to an autistic who understands the essential need for acceptance on both the individual and collective level. 

Throughout the therapy process, you and your child will learn new skills and strengthen your ability to tune into your needs and make intentional decisions that support your well being and help you live a life you love. By using a strengths-based approach, incorporating elements of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), mindfulness skills, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), we can help you adjust your relationship to your unhelpful thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Using these methods, you can target symptoms of depression, complex trauma, and anxiety, among other mental health challenges, and learn skills for emotional regulation. This will ultimately help you resolve behaviors that interfere with your functioning and overall well being. 

Regardless of if you’re an autistic or the parent of someone with autism, therapy is an opportunity to feel embraced and empowered in a world that can often be conformist and alienating. At Spectrum Connections Therapy, we give you permission to show up exactly as you are to explore and celebrate the unique qualities that autism has gifted in you. 

Maybe You’re Considering Counseling For Children And Adults With Autism, But You Still Have Questions…

I don’t necessarily think that I need to know whether or not I’m on the spectrum, but I struggle with basic day-to-day functions—can therapy help?

We are a therapy practice seeking to normalize and affirm the experiences of those with autism. We aren’t interested in pathologizing or labeling your “symptoms,” but instead providing you with support so that you can feel embraced and empowered. If your struggles align with neurodivergence, our therapists can help you shift your perspective and build skills to thrive.

How long does autism therapy take?

The length of this process depends greatly on presenting issues and your long-term goals, but our aim as therapists is to ultimately work ourselves out of a job. Therefore, once you feel like your goals for therapy have been met, we can begin to taper our sessions. This is meant to be a collaborative process for you and your family, so we will work together to create a treatment plan that feels effective and manageable. 

Can you come to the school or home environment to provide therapy?

We offer off-site visits within the greater Denver Metro area and HIPAA-compliant telehealth services by request. Meeting outside of the therapeutic environment gives you and/or your child a chance to practice applying skills, which is an important aspect of therapy for the autism community. By reinforcing these skills in the natural environment, you and/or your child can build the foundation for the generalization of new behaviors. 

Autism Blog Posts:

EMDR Therapy for Autism Spectrum Trauma Healing

Trauma-informed care is increasingly becoming the preferred standard when working with neurodivergent folks with autism spectrum differences. Autistic individuals tend to experience more trauma for a variety of reasons as they continue to try to adapt to living in a world with neurotypical standards. Individuals with developmental differences, such as autism spectrum, are more vulnerable

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What Conditions are Neurodivergent?

It’s estimated that 15-20% of the global population is neurodivergent. While we can certainly get into the details of what neurodiversity truly means, in a nutshell, it refers to anyone with a condition that causes their brain to work a bit differently than a neurotypical brain. The neurodiversity movement promotes and accepts these differences and does

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How Trauma Affects Someone with Autism

Trauma can have a serious, long-term impact on anyone who goes through it. Whether it was a one-time traumatic event or complex trauma like abuse or neglect, no one is immune from struggling with the aftermath. However, trauma can affect someone with autism differently. Unfortunately, people with autism are often at a greater risk of experiencing trauma

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5 Ways to Navigate Neurodivergent Social Anxiety

Social anxiety can impact anyone. It refers to any individual who deals with irrational anxiety in social situations or through different interactions. Neurodivergent people often get labeled as “socially anxious,” though it’s even more common that they get mislabeled as shy. For those on the autism spectrum or with other neurodiverse conditions, being around groups

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Why Autistics May Be More At Risk for Complex Trauma

During the last twenty years, awareness of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has grown by leaps and bounds. Through a variety of means, society is now familiar with the language associated with trauma and the need for treatment. As time goes on, we are also gaining a deeper understanding of the impact that abuse, neglect, bullying,

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Podcast with Dr. Nicole Gurash: Navigating the Spectrum

Recently I chatted with Michele Portlock with Navigating the Spectrum, located in Parker, Colorado. We chatted about neurodiversity-affirming and trauma-informed care for the neurodivergent community. If you’d like to listen to the podcast, here is the link.

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Competent, Affirming Care Exists

If you, your adolescent or teen struggle to thrive in a neurotypical world, the clinicians at Spectrum Connections Therapy specialize in counseling individuals with autism spectrum. 

To touch base about how we can be of support with our autism therapy approach, please contact us for a FREE 30-minute phone consultation.

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