Therapist for Child with Autism

Parent Q&A

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  • My son was diagnosed with ASD at age 14 and has completely rejected the label, will not talk to any therapist who presents as working with spectrum kids. That said, he has been perpetually misunderstood by family and friends because of his ways of thinking, speaking, reacting and behaving — which align closely with “high functioning” ASD. 

    He has worked with a therapist for 3 years now but has found her to be “useless”, “she doesn’t understand me”. That said, I have noticed that he has learned to slow down his reactions and he seems to have learned more useful language for talking about his feelings. He has only remained with her for this long because of the inertia around finding a new therapist. 

    He says he is “ready to bite the bullet” now and find a new therapist because he is angry, down, frustrated with how people continue to misunderstand him and vice-versa. He insists on having a male therapist — and as above, he will refuse to talk to anyone who wants to help him in the context of his diagnosis with ASD. We have tried to find some leeway with him on this — it would be so helpful — but there’s none. 
    that said — any recs for a male therapist? We are in Oakland but would travel and would be willing to pay a lot for someone who is wise and talented. 
    Feeling grim but determined,

    mom

    Peter August, MFT, on Piedmont Avenue, helped us when our son was a teen. He does know ASD but his style is not diagnosis-based. He definitely tries to connect with and understand his clients. Our son liked him a lot, and my partner and I found him more helpful than many other therapists/specialists we saw during those rough years. 

    My son is also 17 and has had remarkably similar issues. He saw Dr. Alex Klein at Kaiser in Oakland for years and that helped him tremendously. He attended Dr. Kein's group for ASD kids/teens and also saw Dr. Klein one on one. We also did some group therapy at Communication Works. Feel free to message me if you like. My son may be a good resource for your son as he has similar issues and is now doing pretty well 

    Hi - Almost 6 years ago my then 17 year old son had escalating issues with anxieties.  A counselor at his school recommended Jon Frankel, who I assume still practices in the East Bay. My son's experience with Jon was excellent - seems as though Jon was thoughtful, intelligent and well practiced at navigating through the shoals of my very intelligent son's frightening (to us both) escalating issues. At the very least, perhaps he can give you some guidance in finding someone to help your son.

    We are in a very similar situation with our teen including the resistance to the "label." The inflexibility can be so hard to work with and so exhausting. We are reaching our limit with the help we can get from Kaiser so I'm going to follow regarding recommendations for a therapist. Solidarity.

  • My 18 year old nephew is a lovely kid with lots of interests and talents. Lately, his parents are increasingly concerned because, especially during the pandemic, he has become entrenched in the extreme right. He’s involved in conspiracy theories, justifies the attack on the Capital, thinks being a white Christian male makes him “oppressed” (even though mom is Jewish and dad is half Latino), and says women should have fewer rights and should be required to stay home with children. He’s on the autism spectrum and says he’s always felt he didn’t fit in and now has found a group that he thinks he can identify with and feel a connection. In calmer moments, he has expressed that these conspiracy theories make him feel anxious. There have been late night emotional explosions where he talks nonstop about things like the “liberal Jewish media” controlling everything. His parents are desperate, sad and feel their child is lost, as if he’s in a cult. He is open to family therapy and his parents might be able to convince him to meet with a psychiatrist. If anyone has experience with something like this, they would very much appreciate ideas, input, referrals. Thank you.

    I have no direct experience with this, except that my teen son is on the autism spectrum and I can totally imagine how it would/could happen. The ASD population is particularly vulnerable and I worry about my own son in that regard-- I can only imagine how hard this is to live with and to watch your child experience.  I think talking with a therapist-- even if just the parents-- could be very helpful.  We (parents and 16-y.o on spectrum) started therapy in September with Dr. Andrew Schlegelmilch (https://www.docschleg.com/). He came strongly recommended as having lots of experience with teens/young adults with ASD-- he is a former psychologist at Orion Academy in Moraga (a school specializing in support for students with Asperger's).  I will say that therapy can be an uphill climb, particularly if the patient doesn't see himself as needing therapy (our own son resists and there are times when I question the value for him), but we find it extremely helpful as parents.  Dr. Schelgelmilch is currently based in Ohio, but maintains his CA license and sees many patients here via telemed.  It's worth a conversation.  Take care and I sincerely hope they can find help.  

    Hi there, I cannot offer any solutions but I can tell you I share your pain. My young adult daughter is similarly on the autism spectrum and has been caught up in the alt-right online community. She is a Black woman who has struggled all her life to make friends in the offline world, and she was thrilled to find people online who share her special interests. Unfortunately, the networks she tapped into are heavily male, misogynist, and racist. She tells me she is loyal to them because she wants to prove to them, with her "nice" and "understanding" interactions, that women and Black people are not bad. She tells me, "If you believed things that weren't true, wouldn't you want someone to educate you?" I appreciate her compassion, loyalty, and good intentions. But her naivete and lack of social savvy means that she has (1) sent naked pictures of herself to men who asked for them; (2) believed an online boyfriend (diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia) when he ranted about various government conspiracies, because "he is a genius and he knows what I'm feeling without me having to tell him" (in this period, she believed I was spying on her through her laptop); and (3) more recently, was ready to move across the country to live with a man whose offline name she doesn't know, who says he is married and has children but is a multimillionaire and would like her to be his girlfriend. When I criticize these interactions, she either reiterates that she plans to "change" her friends to make them tolerant and good, or tells me I'm a boomer who doesn't understand the internet. All I can think of to do is to encourage her to discuss these relationships with her therapist and to also encourage her to spend more time offline. But it's so hard to make friends in the "real world" if you are on the spectrum, and doubly so during pandemic times. I, too, would love to hear ideas and referrals!

    My 19 year old son is on the spectrum and I have had the same concerns. He also has a Jewish mom (me) and a Chinese dad. What has worried me is he had psychotic symptoms when he was younger, and where that line between conspiracy theories/extremist views and psychoses may lie.

    In MY calmer moments, I try to remember that his ASD centers around rigidity and black/white thinking, and he has little tolerance for anything that is subjective. There is nothing nuanced, vague or subtle about extreme views, and conspiracy theories provide an explanation to the more-than-usual confusing and out-of-our own control world that surrounds us. I hope that feeling a connection to these groups are his way of grasping onto something that feels understandable and normalized.  And that this interest will pass, like teenage angst.

    I try to stay curious and non-reactive, and ask him about what he thinks, and I find I am impressed with his depth of knowledge and research. One night he talked non-stop for almost 2 hours about various conspiracy theories and views. I also asked if he has anyone to talk to about these subjects, and he says no-one wants to listen and they don't care. So I try to be an outlet for him to verbalize these ideas and opinions, though I admit I am a little traumatized for a day or two after a lengthy discussion.

    I saved a FB post from a friend that I haven't read yet, and of course now I can't find it. It was something about "what to do when your young adult is attracted to conspiracy theories" or something similar. When I find it and watch it I will post back with the link.

    Hugs to you and his parents.

  • I am looking for someone to help my son manage himself over a broad range of situations. Im not looking for a quick fix but rather a therapist who can help him generalize problem solving skills over a myriad of experiences. Nothing ABA related, but rather a therapist who understands the neurocogntive challenges of Anxiety Disorder, ADHD and ASD combined and can help him learn to assess each individual situation and gain skills that he can apply to allow him to come through each one appropriately and safely.

    Hi, this is my field, though am responding as a parent. There are therapists out there who specialize in ASD. If do not have word-of-mouth referrals, perhaps you can do a thorough internet search (including Psychology Today or similar) and then contact a number of therapists, and talk with them directly (not just admin/staff). Follow your gut instincts, and perhaps even try out a few sessions with your top choices. When you have a high needs child, a good fit is important.

    Unfortunately, I have no recommendations. However, we moved to the area from the east coast recently, have a teen boy with the exact same profile and are also in the market for a therapist.  We had recently started with someone new in Maryland who was very good and we really need a replacement. Let me know if you’d like to compare notes sometime or just connect. Heather 

    Hi, 

    I too have a teen boy in this category. I was recently given the name of Kent Grelling with a glowing recommendation. We haven't pursued it yet but he might be someone to check out to see if he would be a fit for your family. https://www.drgrelling.com/kent-grelling-phd

  • IEE/ FBA for 9yo son with Autism

    (4 replies)

    Help! Our 9-year old son, who is diagnosed with Autism as well as sensory processing disorder and anxiety, is having tons of behavior problems in his 4th grade class.  We feel like we need more than the school's assessment, particularly in regards to what he needs and how to best help the situation. We are getting daily emails and phone calls about incidents. We are in the process of asking for an independent educational evaluation (IEE) and would ideally like to find a psychologist that can do the outside evaluation as well as a functional behavior assessment (FBA), and who has expertise specifically around evidence based interventions for Autism. Any recommendations greatly appreciated!

    Please check in with DREDF on how to request the IEE. Most health insurance will cover functional behavioral assessments and services for those with a clinical dx of autism. You may also want to explore eligibility for regional center services.

    Dr Terry Doyle in Rockridge is GREAT. Remember, the school has to reply to your request for IEE within a 'reasonable amount  of time.' If they don't, you can file a complaint with the California Department of Education (which is what we did and it was super helpful).  DREDF can help a ton there too. BUSD has a terrible record in 'help' for kids with learning disabilities. You have to advocate hard for your kid. 

    Hannah Acevedo has been a lifesaver, and has very much helped our school situation with our son (who sounds similar)! She is an educational psychologist with neuropsych training, also is a behavior analyst and I think she does IEEs as well as FBAs. Hannah really "got" our son and was totally up on the latest evidence-based interventions for Autism, and she worked to make things doable for us and the school (which the last neuropsych we saw did not). She also took the time to collaborate with our son's OT in creating the behavior plan to take into account our son's sensory issues and how they related to his anxiety. She is down to Earth, has tons of experience working with schools and families, and does excellent evaluations. Her latest contact info is: https://www.pathwaystolearning.services/  or hannah [at] pathwaystolearning.services, 510-730-1537

    Use Dredf to follow the right process to request an IEE. To be eligible you must have an bad Iep. You are not saying in which 

    district you are. FYI Berkeley unified has currently a class law suit against them as they are denying services to dyslexic, autism children.

    do not hesitate to contact Dredf they know the law to help children with disabilities. Be prepare to advocate for your child because nobody as better knowledge on what (s)he needs.

  • Pivotal Response Therapy for ASD kids

    (1 reply)

    Hi Everyone,

    We are seeking names of therapists that specialize or have certification in Pivotal Response Therapy (PRT). We have a list of ABA-based orgs in the bay area but the list is so long, the only way to find out at the moment is to keep calling each one of them. And not all of them are friendly. Would really help if someone has already researched this and can share their results.

    Thanks.

    UC Santa Barbara developed PRT, and they offer in person week long private tutorials in the summer and distance programs as well:
    https://education.ucsb.edu/autism

    You can also order books from them.

Parent Reviews

I wrote a post similar to yours when our son was diagnosed with ASD at just a few month shy of 3 yo. 

We started with ABA through the East Bay Regional Center, and then at 3 he was assessed by school district.  They wanted to provide services in a contained special ed preschool that we felt wouldn’t work for our son. We fought them and we’re able to get them to pay for an ABA therapist to shadow him as an aide at his mainstream preschool (that he/we loved). This was one of the best decisions we ever made as it allowed him the opportunity to learn from and interact with “neurotypical” kids. 

He averaged around 25 hours per week of ABA until he started Kindergarden. It was very helpful, but we had to adjust to having people in our home.  Our son still receives ABA after school, although we are now considering tapering down.  

The other thing that made a big difference for our son is biomedical treatment.  I regret how resistant we were to this in the beginning, but I truly thought it was hocus pocus. That said, when we discovered that our son was having reactions to some foods (bright red cheeks, ears and meltdowns), his OT recommended that we see Dr Sanford Newmark at UCSF.  

The first thing Dr Newmark did was have us do an elimination diet, during which we found he reacted to several foods. We removed them and he improved overnight.  We’ve never looked back.  Here are some websites and books I wish we had known about when we started our journey:   

The Autism Revolution: Whole-Body Strategies for Making Life All It Can Be - Martha Herbert, MD, Harvard Medical School. 

Talk About Curing Autism 

https://tacanow.org/

The Myth of Autism: How a Misunderstood Epidemic Is Destroying Our Children, Expanded and Revised Edition, Michael J Goldberg, MD

Healing the New Childhood Epidemics: Autism, ADHD, Asthma, and Allergies: The Groundbreaking Program for the 4-A Disorders, Kenneth Bock, MD 

Overcoming Autism:  Finding the Answers, Strategies, and Hope That Can Transform a Child's Life, Lynn Kern Koegel, PhD, UCSB 

These are controversial from a mainstream medical perspective to be sure, but you should read and decide for yourself.  Several of the books above are available on Audible so I could listen while I was doing other things.  

Fast forward to our son at 9 and 1/2 and he is now mainstreamed in public school and is doing well.  He still has issues, but as we address his underlying medical problems, he continues to improve.   Most importantly, he is a much happier kid. 

You have reason for hope, especially given how young your son is. Best of luck!

I think it is absolutely AWESOME that you got such an early diagnosis!  Your ABA provider will help you come up with goals for your child and they will help to educate you, too, so you can continue to help him stretch and grow...the good (and bad!) news about being an ASD parent is that you are your child's main therapist!  Read as much as possible.  An excellent book to start with is An Early Start for Your Child with Autism: Using Everyday Activities to Help Kids Connect, Communicate, and Learn by Rogers/Dawson/Vismara.

Also check out Autism Speaks' 100 Day Kit for Newly Diagnosed Families:

https://www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/tool-kits/100-day-kit

We didn't end up doing ABA because it didn't seem to be the right fit for our now 5.5 year old who was diagnosed at age 3.  Instead we've been doing speech, social skills therapy and occupational therapy.

I'm guessing you might have Kaiser since you got such an early diagnosis and ABA hours; you should get them to give you speech (SLP) and OT, too...and if you don't have Kaiser, you should still try to get these incredibly important therapies.

Again, huge kudos to you and your child!

Wishing your family all my best.

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