Author Archives: natalieharbison

April: Autism Awareness Month

Recent research from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that 1 in 68 children will be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in their life. These numbers have changed dramatically in the past ten years and necessitates the availability of counseling for families of those diagnosed with ASD. I strive to meet those needs.
The most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) drastically change the landscape of ASD.

Another change in the last year is found in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual Five (DSM-5.) Asperger’s disorders, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified, are now included under the ASD umbrella. There can also be a diagnosis of communication disorder that may include difficulties in verbal and nonverbal communication. Each diagnosis comes with a share of hurdles that I can help overcome in individual and family therapy. For a summary of further changes please go the DSM-5 website at, http://www.dsm5.org. 

ASD can bring about a wonderful personality that is specific and unique to the individual but it can also come with some challenges. Difficult moments may arise at the first stage of diagnosis, transitioning through developmental stages, moving out of the home, and/or building relationship and communication. I can offer therapy and support for families going through these transitions. I believe “family” includes a variety of people like parents, guardians, siblings, friends, and teachers. 

Individuals that have a diagnosis of ASD or other spectrum disorder may face new challenges as they begin or maintain their adult development. As a family therapist, my goal is to serve those families and individuals who experience the transitions in young adult and adult years.

I focus on improving social skills, communication, relationships, verbal and non-verbal skills, perceiving and reading other people, and educational or occupational changes.

 This month please take a minute and talk to those around you about autism spectrum disorder and the families and individuals it impacts. And if there is someone that may need an extra hand in the journey please provide them with my information.  If you or your family are experiencing some of the struggles, unanswered questions, or transitions that come with ASD please contact me, I would be happy to help you and your family achieve your goals and gain some tools for future hurdles. 
*Originally written April 2014

Transitions

As we transition into winter and the holidays, we may experience transitions in our lives. These transitions can be big or small, exciting and/or scary. But unlike the familiar season’s changes, some transitions are not predicted or expected. We are not always as prepared as we hoped to make changes, break routines, form new relationships and process the feelings that come with transitions. 


Sometimes we try to ignore the impact of change in our lives, and for our efforts, we gain feelings of unease and anxiety. Of course, some transitions will allow for different or more heightened feelings, than others. For example small changes like an altered diet may not have the same impact as moving away from home or changing the course of a relationship. 


To keep from avoiding uneasy feelings and changes during transition is it important to accept that the transition is occurring. Yes, this is easier said than done. But once accepted, we can move on to process what the next step is and begin seeing positive aspects that accompany changes. Self-awareness is key. If we ask ourselves, am I living in the past? How is this benefitting the future?  Do I want to decide to see the positive aspects within this transition and my future?


Depending on the situation, the answers to these questions may take some time dedicated to self-discovery. Supportive friends and family are also essential during tough changes. But there are times when it is relieving to have an open and empathetic ear from a therapist. A therapist can give tools, insight, and empathy that those close to the situation may have more difficulty with. 


Once the transition is accepted, life can be taken one day at a time and finding out the steps to take in this new chapter or way of life. Taking time to reflect on the process and what feelings one may be feeling at each crossroads will help with future transitions and keep the leap to acceptance smaller. Through the transition process we should be our own best friend and allow for any feelings, doubts, or questions to processed and reflected upon. This can be done alone, with a therapist, or supportive friends and family. Transitions are hard but fighting the change and pushing out feelings will make them harder and last longer. 
Accept. Process. Heal. Move forward.