Mental Health and Anxiety Treatment with Autism: There is Help
If your child has autism spectrum disorder (ASD), he/she is far more likely to have one or more additional disorders—such as anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), or a mood disorder. Current estimates tell us more than 50 percent of children with ASD have significant anxiety.
It’s common for high-functioning children on the spectrum to realize they respond differently than other kids in many social situations. They may question why they’re different or why they don’t respond the way everyone else does. Many believe no matter what they do, there’s no way they will fit in. These thoughts or feelings of hopelessness can lead children with ASD to develop anxiety or depressive symptoms.
Unfortunately, as a parent, finding evidence-based mental health treatment designed specifically for children with ASD can be difficult. To address this need, Rogers Behavioral Health-Tampa Bay is offering a specialized day treatment option for children and teens ages 6 to 18: the Anxiety and Mood Disorders in ASD Partial Hospitalization Program. Treatment is provided six hours a day, five days a week, for approximately six weeks. This programming does not treat ASD, but it focuses on your child’s co-occurring anxiety, depression, other mood disorder, or OCD.
Knowing the red flags of a co-occurring condition
When a child with ASD has a co-occurring mental health concern, you may see behavior that is not typical for your child. Be on the lookout for the following symptoms when they last three days or longer:
- Increased irritability or unusually cranky behavior
- Significant fears of different situations
- Decrease or loss of interest in previously-enjoyed activities
- Unexplained feelings of worthlessness or guilt or negative self-talk
- Change in appetite or extreme changes in weight
Scientifically-supported treatment can help
Through the specialized outpatient care available at Rogers Behavioral Health-Tampa Bay, you and your child will attend treatment for part of the day. We draw on the expertise of psychiatrists, psychologists, behavioral specialists, and more to help your child build healthier relationships and to provide tools to maximize your child’s success at home, in school, and in the community.
Rogers offers evidence-based treatment that has been proven effective in improving children’s functioning and decreasing mental health symptoms. Our therapeutic approach is individually tailored to each child’s unique situation, but in general, the techniques offered in this program include exposure therapy, behavioral activation, elements of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and more.
Family education and involvement are also strong components of the program. Our staff members will explain why you’re seeing behavioral changes in your child, and we’ll discuss how we can help. Under our guidance, you’ll practice new skills with your child and try them out at home. The next day, we’ll check in to discuss possible adjustments. Children will also have homework assignments to complete in between sessions.
Your child will also participate in experiential therapy—therapeutically designed activities that directly support your child’s treatment goals. These activities are not just structured fun time. As a parent, you know one of the best ways to learn is by doing. Through experiential therapy, children with ASD gain deeper understanding than they would through traditional therapy alone. We’ll teach your child skills in applied settings, allowing them to learn when to use these skills and how to apply them appropriately.
The first step is to request a free, confidential screening by calling 844-220-4411. If you’d like to know more about Rogers Behavioral Health-Tampa Bay or the Anxiety and Mood Disorders in ASD Partial Hospitalization Program, contact Kara Rapozo via email or call 813-294-8469.
In his research and clinical practice at Rogers Behavioral Health-Tampa Bay, Dr. Joshua Nadeau focuses on the use of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for the treatment of obsessive-compulsive and related disorders, as well as in the adaptation of evidence-based techniques to address the unique needs of youth and adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other neurodevelopmental disorders. He has authored and co-authored numerous peer-reviewed articles and book chapters on the treatment of obsessive-compulsive and related disorders. His personal and professional connections to ASD drive his dedication to helping children and families affected by this disorder.
This article was featured in Issue 64 – Teaching the Skills Your ASD Child Needs