If your child has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, you may feel confused and uncertain about what comes next. You might also be unsure of how best to help your child or where to find reliable information regarding treatment options.
While children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may not outgrow it, they can often learn new skills and overcome many developmental challenges as a result of treatment.
But there’s good news! While the nature of autism is complex, research shows that early intervention can help your child make significant gains.
There are many services available to help your child grow and succeed in life. One important service is pediatric social work; let’s take a closer look at how this can be beneficial for children.
What is Pediatric Social Work?
Social work is a broad field that encompasses many different kinds of jobs and responsibilities. Although the public often associates social workers with government agencies or hospitals, these institutions make up only one portion.
In social work, behavioral health refers to a person’s (children and adults) actions and habits. Professionals who study the subject research the connection between behavior and one’s ability to function in society.
Behavioral health includes eating, drinking, and exercise habits; social activities; and addiction—all of which can affect children. Other behavioral health disorders are more common among young people than they are in adults.
Children develop behavioral health disorders for a variety of reasons, including genetics, environment, and trauma. Mental health problems are more common than you might think; one in five children will experience a mental illness before the age of 18.
Our Social Workers are Licensed and trained to diagnose and treat psychiatric conditions, including behavioral issues—and they’re the perfect fit if your child struggles with social or emotional problems.
Does your child need Social Work?
Changes in your child’s behavior, such as frequent negativity or failure to thrive academically, can leave parents wondering whether therapy is needed.
Sometimes a traumatic experience will bring about changes in behavior, but other times it may seem that these behavioral shifts occur “out of the blue. “
It’s important to pay attention to these changes in your child, regardless of the reason. If you see a pattern emerging, it could indicate that therapeutic preschool would be a good fit for them.
Here are some common behaviors/disorders that Social Work therapists can help support your child with:
- Mood disorders
- Low self-esteem
- Adjustment disorders
- Behavioral disorders
- Impulse control
- Oppositional defiance
- Social skills deficits
All of these behaviors can lead to dysregulation in emotions causing more distress in social, educational and personal situations. When your child struggles with regulation, it can have an effect on their quality of life. Our social workers are here to fix that.
What is self-regulation and why is it important?
Self-regulation is the ability to control your emotions. It includes being able to resist highly emotional reactions and calm yourself down when you get upset, but also adjusting—without an outburst—to a sudden shift in plans or expectations.
Self-regulation is a set of skills that enables children to direct their own behavior toward a goal, despite the unpredictability of life.
Many childhood disorders are closely related to a child’s inability to regulate his or her emotions.
Emotional dysregulation in children has been linked to behavioral disorders like ODD and puts a child at significant risk of developing emotional disorders such as anxiety, eating, or anger.
Children who are unable to control the expression of their emotions tend to have fewer social skills. Anger, withdrawal, anxiety, and aggressive behavior can result from such a deficit in self-regulation. A child who has poor emotion regulation skills tends to throw tantrums, which can negatively affect the parent-child relationship and lead to a negative spiral that affects everyone in the household.
Successful emotional regulation in children correlates strongly with social success and academic achievement. Children who have learned to regulate their emotions are better able to face and recover from trauma or adverse events: they accept frustration as part of life but don’t give up in the face of it.
This is an important part of how our licensed social workers support children at our therapeutic preschool, as it helps your child recognize and understand their thoughts and how those thoughts affect them. Learning self-regulation is vital to your child’s growth and assimilation inside and outside of the classroom.
How is Pediatric Social Work Incorporated at Lumiere?
Although social workers are known for their work in clinical environments, they can also provide services such as mental health diagnostics, individual counseling, and tools for home regulation—in other words, helping your child with tough emotions or experiences.
Social workers advocate for children who are in need of assistance. They assess the situation and offer counseling or other services to meet that child’s specific needs. They also act as important guides for children who are struggling, providing them with support and guidance when needed. Here are a few ways social workers can assist such children:
Naming and Explaining Behaviors
Behavioral health issues in children can be difficult to describe and conceptualize. Social workers help kids and families understand what behaviors might require additional support, as well as the range of options available when dealing with behavioral health problems.
An example of this might be a child who is struggling with anxiety. A social worker would help the child and their family understand what behaviors are associated with anxiety, as well as how these behaviors can impact daily living. They may also provide guidance on ways to manage these symptoms in order to improve the quality of life for the child.
Creating an Enriching School Environment
Our licensed social worker provides services—including advanced therapeutic enrichment in the classroom as a part of the school day, individualized therapy, and families are given the tools/support they need.
Our social workers are also trained to lead the social-emotional learning lesson plans and social thinking in all our classes, as well as provide 1:1 individual therapy services. In this approach, children are encouraged and taught to consider the thoughts and feelings of others when in social situations. They also learn how to be aware of their own actions and behaviors.
Having backgrounds in the use of play therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and art-based therapies, they are important additions to our team. Play Therapy encourages free and healthy expression while also increasing respect for others; CBT is a proven method used by prominent therapists around the world to treat a variety of mental health issues; and art-based therapies help children express their thoughts and feelings in a way that is more comfortable than talking.
These are all services that can help individuals with autism spectrum disorders or other developmental disabilities. This approach, though beneficial to all kids, is especially useful with those who are on the autism spectrum because it helps build their confidence and promotes positive social interactions. Below are three of the most widely used therapies for children who work with Social workers:
For children with autism spectrum disorder and other mental health conditions, cognitive behavioral therapy can teach kids to avoid negative emotions by revising their beliefs or changing their behavior.
Cognitive behavioral therapy has two main components—the cognitive aspect helps children change how they think about a situation, whereas the behavioral component focuses on helping them react differently to it.
In cognitive behavioral therapy, your child works with a specially trained therapist to learn how his or her thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are related.
Through cognitive behavioral therapy, children and parents gain a deeper understanding of the difficulties experienced by the child. This type of therapy teaches an array of coping skills that help children manage emotional distress as well as identify maladaptive behavior patterns so they can be changed.
This can also help decrease the severity of physical symptoms, negative thoughts, and problematic behaviors that occur in a person with chronic pain.
Art is a natural way for all children to explore and express themselves. Through drawing, painting—and creating in general—children get a better understanding of emotions, and how to cope with situations, plus more encouragement to interact socially.
Autistic children have a different way of processing information, which makes it more difficult for them to learn and understand these skills which is why Art Therapy is so important.
It also provides opportunities for achieving personal or academic goals, including:
Developing sensory integration
Decreasing off-task behaviors
Increasing learning opportunities
Enhancing visual skills
Defining fine motor skills
Encouraging social skills
Improving behavioral issues by integrating ABA therapy
Through creative expression and other imaginative activities, you can help your child feel seen, heard—and understood.
Art therapy offers children with autism an outlet for creative expression, helping them better understand their world and relate to others.
Children learn through play. By engaging in pretend games and activities, young children often build physical and social skills as well as trying on different personalities or characters.
Autistic children may play differently from other kids. Autistic children usually prefer to play alone, and when they do interact with others the quality of their relationships is often compromised by difficulties in communication and social interaction.
Play therapy is a tool for helping autistic children become more fully themselves. It helps them move beyond autism’s self-absorption into real, shared interaction.
Play, if used properly, can give children a chance to explore their feelings and the world around them.
Therapists will help children build such skills as sharing and turn-taking, which require a sense of reciprocity. They’ll also encourage imaginative play (pretending to feed an imaginary animal) and even abstract thinking (like pretend cooking).
Parents can learn how to use play therapy in their home, and over time this approach builds a more meaningful relationship between parent or guardian and child.
Fostering Family and Community Relationships
With the help of a social worker, families can heal and redress behavioral issues that cause undue strain on their members. Social workers provide guidance for families navigating conflict, changing dysfunctional family dynamics, and fostering emotional support—all key factors in improving how parents relate to one another.
Social workers can help families build healthy relationships with one another and their communities. A social worker may provide guidance in the form of counseling, mentoring, and tutoring for children who are struggling at school or need support at home after a tragedy.
What are our goals for your child?
At Lumiere therapeutic Preschool, everything we do is focused on helping your child accomplish his or her goals. Our therapists create unique plans for each child. When you work with a Social Work Therapist, our main goal is to elevate your child’s life overall – but that’s not all.
Below are a few common goals that we have for you and your child throughout their social work therapies:
Help children and families navigate the stresses of childhood
Create coping skills
Provide counseling for children and parents
Build strategies to enhance the parent-child connection
Support parents and families so they can advocate for their children
Create comprehensive behavior plans that fit with each family’s lifestyle
By working with a social worker to improve emotional expression, problem-solving skills—and the ability to communicate effectively—we can help make your child’s life easier.
Our social work team is here to connect, assist, and help create clarity when it’s difficult to find—no matter if you’re new or just want a fresh perspective on issues in your family or with your child. Call us now to book your discovery call here at Lumiere Therapeutic Preschool.