Counselling, Therapy and Diagnosis for Autism in Children and Teenagers

What is autism in children and teenagers?

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder which impacts on how people interact with the world and those around them. This encompasses a spectrum of symptoms and signs that differ from person to person. As such autism is referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), this also includes Asperger’s Syndrome.

Children with autism begin to show signs of the disorder from infancy, these involve a range of social, communicative and behavioural difficulties. The environment can be a distressing and confusing place for a child with autism and they can struggle to relate to others.

Early intervention through identification and management is beneficial to help children cope with the difficulties of living with autism, allowing the child to live a happy and healthy life. An assessment is therefore an important step to identify what support your child requires.

If you believe your son or daughter may be struggling with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, assessment and support from a qualified team clinical psychologists and other autism specialists at Harwood Child Psychology can help.


How do I know if my child has autism?

Autism is present from birth, however the signs do not tend to appear until the child is around 5 to 30 months. Certain signs may not be apparent until the child is older and they are engaged in more social situations. Autism can also differ between boys and girls.

The signs can be broadly divided into two categories: social communication and repetitive behaviour patterns.

  • Social communication

You might notice your child is struggling with the following:

  • Responding to social interaction, they may seem to talk less than other children and struggle with engaging in conversations.
  • Problems with non-verbal communication, this may include difficulties making eye contact or abnormalities in body language and facial expressions, such as not smiling when someone smiles at them.
  • Difficulties making and maintaining friendships.
  • Disinterested in connecting and interacting with peers, this can include difficulties sharing in imaginative play.
  • Delayed speech.
  • Repetitive Behaviour Patterns

You might notice your child does the following:

  • Repeating movements such as flapping hands, rocking or flipping objects.
  • Frequently repeating words or phrases.
  • Inflexibility in routine, this may present as significant distress over changes such as taking a different route or eating at different times in the day.
  • Intense and fixated interest in a particular subject or activity.
  • A strong attachment or preoccupation with unusual objects such as keys or rubber bands.
  • Abnormal responses to lights, sounds, textures and movements, this can include becoming distressed over specific sounds and sensations or excessive touching or smelling of objects.
  • Being very selective about what foods they will eat.
  • Not liking the feel of things such as the labels in clothes

How can I help my child or teenager with autism?

If you are unsure whether your child’s behaviour is a sign of autism, Harwood Child Psychology can offer a full specialist assessment following the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines. It is important to only use gold standard measures and experienced practitioners when undertaking an autism assessment otherwise the recommendations may not be accepted by schools and other agencies. An accurate identification of autism is an important step to managing your child’s needs and addressing your concerns. Establishing an appropriate support plan can help your child cope with the challenges of autism, allowing them to fulfil their potential.

As autism is not considered a mental health issue, there is no cure. However, there are various methods of support available for children with the disorder to overcome some of the difficulties they may face in their everyday lives. Each child with autism will have specific needs, which require a tailored support plan and varying degrees of care. This may involve helping to develop life, social, communication and educational skills if difficulties are present in these areas. Involving parents and families in the development of the plan is essential. Management also involves identifying any challenging behaviours that may occur with the autism, and discussing strategies to overcome these.

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Autism commonly overlaps with other difficulties such as ADHD, anxiety, OCD, low mood, sensory difficulties and eating difficulties. If your child is suffering from other conditions alongside or as a result of autism, assessment is important to identify where additional support is required.

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Harwood Child Psychology provides specialist assessment and effective support for autism in Muswell Hill, Crouch End, Highgate, Hampstead, Finchley and the wider North West London area.

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