Stephanie McGlynn, MFT

Consultations for Parents of Children in the Autistic Spectrum

Parenting is a challenge, especially for parents of a child with special needs. While trying to learn all you can about how to help your child, you may forget the huge impact the diagnosis has on your entire family. All parents struggle in this situation, and all are deeply concerned about their child’s future.

If your child was diagnosed at a young age, you are most likely confronted with many immediate uncertainties about your child’s communication skills, play skills, and overall development. You face the process of many decisions in regard to treatment modalities. My goal is to support you as a parenting team during this transition so that you can make the necessary decisions while maintaining loving relationships within your family.

If your child was diagnosed at an older age, you are dealing with a slightly different set of challenges. Your child has likely developed language skills and limited social skills, and may have progressed well through grade school. His/Her peculiar habits and unusual behavior are suddenly more pronounced and are causing problems at school and in your family life. I help parents of older children to develop a better understanding of their child’s needs. My goal is to support you in learning about the adjustments you have to make within the school and family to suit your child’s needs, while coping as parents with this new perception of your child.

Parent consultations provide a place to freely express your concerns about your child and your family. Having a compassionate listener nurtures and strengthens you, and expands your ability to continue to be patient with your children.

Rationale for support of parents

Parents of children in the autistic spectrum deal with multifaceted challenges on a daily basis: the struggles of accepting the diagnosis and the effects that it has on their marriage and the family life overall, finding resources and the right program for their child, being in public with a child that visibly shows no signs of being different, but acts in extreme ways, being constantly reminded of the child’s different perception of the world, and finally dealing with overwhelming worries about the future.

The diagnosis of a child has an immense impact on both the immediate caregivers and the entire family. Unpredictability of diagnosis and future development, limited knowledge about autism in the general public and in the medical field, as well as difficulties in relating to the child cause a maze of emotional strains on the parents. The child’s often inappropriate behaviors limit the family’s participation in regular daily life activities.

Efforts have been made in the last twenty years to provide services to children in the autistic spectrum. These efforts have proven that early intervention programs can make a big difference in the lives of these children. Most of these interventions are aimed at the children directly, or provide the parents with concrete strategies for dealing with their children. While these interventions have improved the quality of life for many families, they do not address the underlying emotional strain that is experienced by all parents. Ultimately this strain is affecting the entire family system and has negative consequences for the child.

Research studies in the late 90’s have found that current services and legislation may not be meeting the needs of families. This is a life-long process and parents will not only need support during the early years, but will need support when it comes to challenging transitions in their child’s life. Some researchers suggest that intervention programs need to be aimed at the entire family and stress the importance of being not just focused on the child.

Emotional support in form of group, individual or couple therapy for parents will encourage the development of more effective coping strategies for their marriage, the entire family, and in relation to their diagnosed child.


Children with Special Needs

General information about autism.
Families for Early Autism Treatment with links to local support groups.
Book reviews from a parent of an autistic child for other parents.
Information about the “DIR/Floortime” approach developed by Dr. Stanley Greenspan and Dr. Serena Wieder.
Carol Gray’s “Social Stories” are widely used in teaching social skills.
Dr. Tony Attwood is widely recognized as an expert in the field of ASD, especially in regard to Asperger’s syndrome.


Attwood, T. (2015). The complete guide to Asperger’s syndrome.

Grandin, T. (2014). The autistic brain. Helping different kinds of minds succeed.

Grandin, T. & Barron, S. (2005). Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships.

Greenspan, S.I. & Wieder, S. (1998). The Child with Special Needs. Reading: Addison- Wesley.

Koegel, L. & LaZebnik, C. (2009). Growing up on the spectrum. A guide to life, love, and learning for teens and young adults with autism and Asperger’s.

Kranowitz, C.S. (1998).The Out-of-Sync Child: Recognizing and Coping with Sensory Integration Dysfunction. New York: Penguin Books.

Ledgin, N. (2002). Asperger’s and Self-Esteem. Insight and hope through famous role models.

Lovett, J.P. (2005). Solutions for Adults with Asperger Syndrome.

McAfee, J. (2002). Navigating the Social World. Arlington: Future Horizons.

Molloy, H. & Vasil, L. (2004). Asperger Syndrome, adolescence, and identity.

Naseef, R. A. (1997). Special children, challenged parents. The struggles and rewards of raising a child with a disability. Secausus: Birch Lane Press.

Rubin, K.H. (2002). The Friendship Factor: Helping Our Children Navigate Their Social World and Why It Matters for Their Success and Happiness. New York: Penguin Books.