A school is a stressful place for a child with autism. Issues with social interaction and communication can leave a child feeling isolated and ‘different’. There can also be internal struggles with the school’s understanding of their needs. Schools can also be overwhelming for children on the spectrum due to sensory needs or not feeling they fit in.
Only 1% of the UK population is on the spectrum, however, mental health conditions are much more common in people with autism compared to the general population. Current statistics suggest that nearly 80% of people on the spectrum also has an issue with their mental health. Anxiety affects 40% of autistic people and depression 30% (National Autistic Society). Because much of the focus can be on dealing with autism, or because mental health conditions can be masked by autism, not enough emphasis is placed on supporting the mental wellbeing of the child or young person with autism.
It can also be very difficult counselling someone with autism for many reasons:
- It can take a long time to establish a therapeutic relationship
- The young person may not be able to communicate how they are feeling
- They may not understand how they are feeling
- They may not be able to connect their emotion to external factors
- The emphasis may always be on managing behaviour rather than understanding emotion and this may take some time to resolve
This aside, there are therapeutic methods to work with the child to help them understand and cope better with their emotions.