ASD: treating co-occurring anxiety, mood, and OCD | Rogers Behavioral Health


It’s important to recognize right up front that we’re not treating autism per se We’re treating comorbid anxiety and mood problems in the context of autism So we’re trying to treat the secondary conditions Social and communication deficits That’s our secondary target The third focus is going to be on activities of daily living A lot of families come into programming having very little information about how to manage their kids behavior So we’re typically taking people who are higher functioning typically taking people who are who have the verbal skills that are going to be necessary to do exposure based work or behavioral activation So we’re trying to help people with the comorbidities Because the reality is it’s something that we’ve studied at Penn studied at Drexel a number of other places we’ve done it as well is that the majority of patients with autism have a comorbid disorder of either an anxiety or depression or something like that that’s above and beyond separate from their autism So we’re trying to treat the secondary conditions with our knowledge of autism our knowledge of exposure and behavioral activation putting all that together so we can help these people to or slowly confront the situations that provoke their discomfort and more effectively tolerate that discomfort But because we recognize we have folks in the program who have autism We also spend some time on social and communication deficits That’s our secondary target Because we recognize by definition these folks are going to have difficulty with communication difficulty with social communication reading cues understanding the the context in which they find themselves especially when they find themselves when they’re upset So doing skill based stuff doing practice on how to ask somebody to do something that you don’t like Things like that we’ll do a lot of role playing a lot of practice to try to help them manage the the co-occurring conditions but also manage their own behavior in social contexts The third focus is going to be on activities of daily living because we know again with an austism population that there are going to be some issues there So making sure that they’re brushing their teeth Making sure they’re hygiene is good Making sure they’re eating properly Making sure they’re not eating too fast If we can help them with those things it may actually help them kind of have less negative experiences in the social milieu which and my concept here is it’s that the lowering tide will lower all boats So if they’re feeling better and functioning better and getting more reinforcement in their social worlds and in their families That may help to keep some of the the discomfort from the co-occurring addition at bay And there’s another piece to this which is that a lot of families come into the programming having very little knowledge or very little information about how to manage their kids behavior and also sometimes people come in and they they don’t really know what services are available so that’s another thing that we can help families with if they’re not well plugged into autism services we can help them understand what’s available in their local community so and we’re educating them they come to parent university These secondary co-occurring conditions can be so anxiety provoking and so disruptive and so uh demoralizing for the kid and the family that if we can help you learn how to manage that teach them how to manage that their lives will be better They’ll feel better They’ll function better and it’ll be easier for everybody to drop the stress level Because it is incredibly stressful to have a kid on the autism spectrum just day to day is harder than it is for most people and we want to try to help alleviate that and maybe more importantly teach skills that can then be generalized beyond being in our program And you can use those skills umm whenever and wherever the content shifts next

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