Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)


Patterns of communication and unresolved conflict.

Autism Spectrum Disorder is neurodevelopment disorder that affect the social, emotional, and communicative skills of an individual. Mostly diagnosed at a young age, as early as two years old, ASD can have a profound effect on the child and their caregivers. Sometimes this condition isn’t  diagnosed until later in life, well into teens or adulthood, and can then greatly affect how one navigates life going forward. Exactly what causes it is still unknown, but some research has suggested a genetic component may be at play.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Individuals with ASD tend to be very sensitive to their environment, like sounds, light, and touch. They may become very fixated on one particular thing and also have a hard time shifting their attention to other tasks. The focus they do have tends to make them good at recalling and remembering specific information, yet can also lead to challenges in their communication skills like poor eye contact or speech.

ASD now includes the diagnosis of several other conditions that were previously separate, like pervasive disorder or Asperger’s syndrome.

The DSM-5 outlines some of the following criteria for diagnosing and can range from varies levels:

  • Restricted, repetitive patterns in behaviours, such as needing to line toys up or insisting in the same routine.
  • Persistent deficits in social communication such as a lack of facial expression or nonverbal communication or difficulty following social norms like standing in line or taking turns. Some may even show patterns of frequent or repetitive biting or kicking.

How does ASD affect children and their caregivers?

Children who are diagnosed with ASD often have a difficult time understanding their emotions and communicating them with the people around them. This can cause a lot of frustration with little ones and effect their ability to form friendships and relationships with others. Often this also leads to a lot of stress and anxiety from the caregivers perspective as they are placed in a situation of uncertainty as well.

Many parents and caregivers may not know the right approach to take or be overwhelmed with all the approaches in general. Emotional, mental, physical, and financial ups and downs can occur and lead to tension in the household or among other family members as well. It’s important to have a good support team to help with these aspects. Finding social support groups can help parents understand how others may also be relating and finding the right therapist to discuss the overall impact is one key step in starting to build the best foundations going forward.

How can counselling help?

Individual, couples and family counselling can be a great start to understanding just how such a diagnosis will impact the lives around them and help strengthen the relationships within by developing coping strategies going forward.  Group therapy can also help connect families to others sharing similar experiences and sharing their own personal outcomes.

Counsellors can help by debunking myths and helping parents set realistic expectations towards their treatment options. They can also help identify strengths, needs, and wants within the child and help guide them in regulating their behaviours.

Various types of therapies exist including:

  • Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) which focuses on reinforcing positive behaviours and tracking the child’s progress. Subtypes within this therapy include:
  • Discrete Trail Training (DTT) in which positive reinforcement is used to rewards desired behaviours.
  • Early Intensive Behavioural Intervention (EIBI) which uses one-to-one supervision with the aim to reduce unwanted behaviours at an early age
  • Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) in which parents and therapists use play and various joint activities to build upon language and social skills.
  • Speech therapy and social skills therapy
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy, a form of talk therapy which may use written or visual cues to help individuals identify how their thoughts, behaviours and emotions affect one another.
  • Music therapy, which has been shown to help individuals relate to their emotions.
  • Sensory integration therapy, which may help regulate sensory input and better manage behaviour.

Finding the right therapist to build a connection with over time can not only help with managing current and ongoing concerns but also help establish a positive healing outlook. If you’re interested in how therapy can help you or your family through these diagnosis, book a free consult today to learn more.


Bennet, E. et al. Autism Spectrum Disorder, What Counsellors Need to Know. American Counseling Association Conference, San Francisco, CA, March 23-25, 2012.

Centre for Disease and Control and Prevention. ADHD & ASD Screening , Diagnosing, and Treating. Sept. 2019.

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