You need and deserve support as you navigate your way through diagnosis and the years beyond.
Anxiety, peer relationships, sexuality, school pressures — the teenage years are filled with major issues to navigate at a time when the body is changing rapidly as well.
What sort of professional support may be helpful?
Professional support can come from psychologists, counsellors, psychiatrists, speech therapists and occupational therapists. Support workers can also be employed if that would help you. These are the types of support that can be funded by an NDIS package.
Who’s Who - Overview of professionals
After you have a diagnosis of autism you may be eligible for support under the NDIS scheme. This may cover some or all of the costs of working with these professionals. link to NDIS eligibility section
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy used by psychologists to help clients to replace unrealistic negative thoughts with positive, supportive and realistic ones. It helps people learn how to deal more effectively with the situations they find themselves in. Techniques to manage anxiety and depression are taught as part of CBT and are relaxation techniques.
Psychologists can also assist with improving emotional regulation and some can help with improving relationships with family and friends. Your psychologist can liaise with your place of work or study and with other service providers. Some psychologists can also assist with social skills training.
It is best to find a psychologist who has experience with autistic adults. You can start researching options by asking autistic peers, The Australian Psychological Society or using the Autism Connect national helpline or web chat.
Research tells us that 50%-70% of autistic people experience one or more mental health conditions. Most commonly these are anxiety disorders, depression and obsessive, compulsive disorder although other mental health conditions also occur.
Having a trusted GP whom you see regularly is one important step in maintaining and managing your mental health. Many autistic people also find that regular consults with a psychiatrist are beneficial, especially if they are taking medications. Find a psychiatrist with an interest in autism via your GP, your local autism association or the Autism Connect national helpline or web chat.
Speech and language therapists
In the process of receiving a diagnosis of autism you may have learned that you have deficits in receptive, expressive and/or pragmatic language. Here is a very brief explanation:
- receptive language — understanding what others say and mean
- spoken or expressive language — putting your own words together
- pragmatic language — the social conventions of language, such as volume of speech and the ‘to and fro’ nature of reciprocal conversation
If this is the case, a speech and language therapist can help. Even small improvements in your speech and language might help your overall communication a great deal.
If you experience major challenges with speech and language then your speech therapists may use augmentative and alternative communication methods with you.
These can be simple picture exchange systems or more sophisticated speech generating devices.
Occupational therapists (OTs) can work with autistic people to improve their sensory processing and to minimise the negative impact of sensory overload. This can have a significant impact on a person’s ability to work or study and to communicate and interact with other people.
If you have fine or gross motor challenges or issues with low muscle tone or motor planning then OT sessions can help improve these. OTs can help you to find modifications and technological aids to assist you at work or when studying, such as keyboards, desks and improved lighting.
Social Skills Programs
There are some social skills programs which can be effective in improving social skills for autistic adults. Some of the peer support networks and groups which you will find on the peer support section offer structured programs run by autistic adults and these can be the most useful. Find other programs via your local autism association, see below, or via the Autism Connect national helpline or web chat.
State and Territory Autism Association
Most state and territory autism associations offer services to adults. Often these are geared towards adults with high support needs. You can find a list of state and territory autism associations below. Contact these to find out whether there might be assistance to suit you.