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The William Alanson White Institute Clinical Services
Established in 1948
20 West 74th Street, NY, NY 10023
Questions? Please call: (212) 873-7070
In recent years there has been a dramatic increase in the number of children diagnosed with an autistic spectrum disorder. According to some estimates, one in 110 children is diagnosed with a disorder on the autism spectrum. Although the exact incidence of these disorders is an area of debate, one thing that is very clear is that the disorder is found far more often in boys than in girls. The cause (or causes) of autistic spectrum disorders is clearly biological as opposed to psychological. Current research indicates that these disorders are the result of abnormal brain development that likely has genetic origins.
Autistic spectrum disorders are developmental disorders. Thus, it is expected that individuals with this diagnosis will have difficulties throughout their lifespan although the exact nature of these difficulties will shift as the child enters a new developmental era. There is also considerable variability in the severity of impairment from relatively mild impairment to more severe.
Overall, there are three core areas of difficulty associated with autistic spectrum disorders:
- Impairment in social interaction. Although children with the disorder may express interest in friendship, these interests are frequently thwarted by the awkward approaches and their insensitivity to the feelings, intentions and nonverbal signals of others.
- Impairment in verbal and nonverbal communication. Many children display a language delay and/or abnormalities in communication. The child’s speech may be pedantic. Their speech may also contain pronoun reversals, echolalia, and unusual and robotic intonations. The children have difficulty understanding non-literal language. Sarcasm and metaphor are often beyond their comprehension. Children also display difficulties in non-verbal communication such as reading facial expressions or body language.
- Markedly restricted repertoire of activities and interests. As young toddlers, the children often use objects in unusual and restricted ways. They may become obsessed with fans, elevator buttons, garage doors, etc. As the children become older they may become obsessed with various television and toy characters.
Although not a core area of difficulty, the children may display various types of sensory issues. They may be overly or under-reactive to sensory input. Children frequently display gross motor difficulties. They are often viewed as clumsy and as displaying little awareness of their body in space.
At the Center we focus on the emotional and psychological needs of children and adolescents on the autism spectrum and their families. The focus on interpersonal relationships is particularly important in the treatment of autistic spectrum disorders, since many of the difficulties experienced by these children are interpersonal in nature. Common issues that we address in treatment include: peer and family relationships, problematic behaviors at home, school issues and bullying. Issues particular to older children and adolescents include dating, sexuality and supporting and planning for more independent lives.
The Center offers a variety of services to address these needs.
- Individual psychotherapy to facilitate the development of imagination and fantasy, as well as to assist the child in learning to appreciate the thoughts, feelings, and emotions of others.
- Group therapy to assist in the development of peer relationships and social skills;
- Parent and family counseling to assist parents and siblings in coping with the specific demands of having a family member with this disorder. Planning for their child’s future is often a major task for the parents as their children progress and develop.
Contact Us Today
The William Alanson White Institute established its award-winning, low-cost treatment center in 1948 to provide affordable psychotherapy and psychoanalysis to members of the community. Since that time, thousands of individuals and families have been served by our highly skilled clinicians. Download the Child & Family Center application or call (212) 873-7070 for more information.