Autism spectrum disorder is a disorder of an individual’s communication skills, which features a diverse range of levels of functioning. In many cases, autism can diagnosed in early childhood, typically around age three. However, in many cases autism can go undetected well into teenage years or even early adulthood. While the rates of autism diagnoses continue to rise, there has not yet been a definitive cause of the disorder provided by the scientific community.
The symptoms of autism include
- Lack of physical coordination
- Repetitive behaviors
- Delayed onset of speech and language skills
- Lack of eye contact
- Meltdowns or tantrums
- Difficulty making or keeping friends
- Self-stimulatory habits referred to as “stimming”
- Interpersonal problems, i.e. socially awkward
- Hyper-sensitivity to stimulation, such as sound, light, or touch
- Aggressive behavior
- Fixating on objects, people, or activities
Teens or young adults with autism tend to become socially isolated, which only further inhibits their functioning abilities. In addition, poor lifestyle habits may form during the teen years, such as a lack of physical exercise or a restricted diet.
Experiential Therapy for Autism
One of the common features of autism is a deficit in proprioception, or the sense of body position and movement awareness. When the individual with autism experiences proprioceptive dysfunction they may be more clumsy and are unable to sense their body position and movements in relation to the space around them. This can lead to embarrassing incidents that leave them feeling a lack of self-confidence. Experiential therapy can assist with sensory integration and improve self-esteem simultaneously.
Through participating in therapeutic activities, such as rock climbing, cycling, hiking, yoga, and tai chi, the client can methodically become more attuned to their physical movements. This leads to improved motor skills and sensory integration, better balance and coordination, weight loss, improved physical fitness, and better spatial awareness. Additionally, the experiential activities boost self-confidence while reducing anxiety.
Nutrition and diet are also focal points in the overall treatment picture, as teens and young adults with autism tend to adopt poor nutritional habits. Diet can present a challenge for the integrated treatment plan, as many clients with autism are on highly restricted diets, such as gluten-free or casein-free diets. Others might have an aversion to many foods, such as the smell or texture of these items, so self-restrict their diet. But even with these challenges, it is possible to provide the client with a balanced approach to eating that will help improve their overall well being.