Autism Support

At Psychology Resources we diagnose and treat children with Autism Spectrum and Pervasive Developmental Disorders. We receive many inquiries about these services. Here is some basic information:

Diagnosis
•A Multi-disciplinary Approach
We take a multi-disciplinary approach to diagnosis. Our diagnostic team includes a psychologist, a physician, a speech therapist, and an occupational therapist. Typically either the psychologist or the physician spearheads the evaluation and summarizes the results in a comprehensive report. The psychologist evaluates the child’s intellectual ability, achievement, development, behavioral symptoms, and emotional symptoms. The physician evaluates developmental and medical concerns.The speech therapist evaluates pragmatic abilities (e.g. the ability to read social situations and nonverbal skills). The occupational therapist evaluates sensory defensiveness and related issues.

•How to Initiate an Evaluation
In Anchorage, families initiate the evaluation process in a variety of ways.

A) Parents may consult with their child’s pediatrician or family practice physician, who in turn may connect them with a clinical psychologist or mental health clinician experienced in evaluating developmental disorders.

B) Parents may request that their child be evaluated by the Anchorage School District to determine his or her special education eligibility. School district evaluations are free of cost. Typically they are limited in scope and do not include all of the measures used in private evaluations.

C) If the child is 7 or younger, developmental pediatrician Ron Brennan may spearhead an evaluation.

•Cost
Cost, of course, can be an obstacle for families. State funding for services to Autistic children is limited but available from Arc, Hope, Catholic Social Services, and other social service agencies. Please note that these funds are only available to children who have been diagnosed with Autism through a multi-disciplinary diagnosis. Paying for that initial evaluation can be costly. People with private insurance may need to obtain pre-authorization from their insurance company. Children with Denali Kids Care or Medicare can be evaluated by eligible practitioners for free. Unfortunately, Denali Kids Care and Medicare only reimburse psychologists who work under the auspices of physicians; this excludes many psychologists who specialize in Autism, including those of us at Psychology Resources.

Parent Support
Parents may obtain free advice and support from The Parent Resource Center and from the Stone Soup Group. Advocates can help parents to understand their options and how to proceed.

Treatment
•Individual Psychotherapy
Children with Autism spectrum disorders quite often experience secondary psychiatric concerns such as Depression, Anxiety Disorders, and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Many patients benefit from individual psychotherapy aimed at helping them to understand the nature of their disorders and their personal strengths and weaknesses. Children in psychotherapy learn healthy ways to cope with the demands of daily living. Our clinicians employ intervention strategies that have been shown to benefit children on the Autistic spectrum, such as developing and reiterating individualized Rules for Living, improving daily living skills, and learning to self advocate.

•Parent Consultations
Parents of children with Autism spectrum disorders often feel grief for their child, unsure how to parent and discipline their child, and intimidated by the seemingly incomprehensible world of diagnosis, intervention, and social service agencies. We provide parent consultations to help parents to work through these issues and to develop sound, positive parenting plans. Additionally, parents may obtain free advice and support from The Parent Resource Center and from the Stone Soup Group. Advocates from these agencies can help parents to understand their options and how to proceed.

•Autism Social Skills Support Group
Children who have completed a multi-disciplinary evaluation and been diagnosed with an Autism spectrum disorder may be eligible to participate in one of our Social Skills Support groups. These groups are available for children aged 6-19. Groups of approximately six similarly-aged children meet with a therapist and a group co-facilitator every other week, after school, throughout the school year. This program includes mandatory, monthly parent participation in a Parent Support Group.

Parents interested in having their child participate in the Autism Social Skills Program are asked to contact Dr. Chuck Lester to schedule an intake.