Another Piece to Our Puzzle: Clinical Social Work and Autism in Children

Guest Authored By Annie M, LCSW

Eyas Landing and Autism Love

Eyas Landing is excited to share with our community that we have hired a social worker to join our multi-disciplinary team of dedicated practitioners in supporting children and their families in reaching success in their dynamic and multi-faceted goals. Clinical social workers can work in a variety of settings and specializations. Clinical social workers can also play a key role in supporting a child who has a diagnosis of autism. 

What Do Social Workers Do?  

Social work can be a broad and at times ambiguous practice for many individuals and families. All social workers abide by the values of service, social justice, dignity and worth of a person, importance of healthy relationships, competence, and integrity (NASW, 2019). In a clinical setting such as Eyas Landing, social workers aim to help individuals and families improve their quality of life as well as offering support in challenging behavioral, health, social, and financial issues. Social workers can assess, diagnose, and treat individuals with a variety of treatment modalities that cater to specific populations.  

Social Work and Autism 

When catering and specializing treatment to the population of children with autism, it is important for social workers to prioritize facets of their care to foster trust and connection between the practitioner and child. It is important for providers to recognize that children with autism may experience or exhibit social impairment, communication challenges, repetitive and/or stereotyped speech, sensory disfunction, and maladaptive behaviors (Harvey, 2019). Providers can establish an environment of safety and warmth by offering a calm, patient, and clear method of communication. Using clear phrasing and creating space for a child to share their automatic thoughts can allow the child to share how they feel in a session with a social worker. Establishing a safe and respectful environment allows the child to feel comfortable in beginning to tackle difficulty they may or others observe they may be experiencing. 

Successful treatment for children with autism who exhibit challenges in social impairment, speech, sensory disfunction, or maladaptive behaviors often benefits from a multi-disciplinary team to target the areas of growth a child may be experiencing. Social workers can target emotional identification and regulation, positive social interactions and modeling, offering therapeutic listening, and support children in reframing negative/unhelpful thoughts.   

Supporting Caregivers 

When supporting caregivers of children who have autism, social workers can be helpful in creating a therapeutic space for a caregiver to share their experiences of their child’s diagnosis and treatment. Caregivers and social workers can also collaboratively problem-solve around any barriers to support or treatment, as well as coordinating other services to establish a cohesive and holistic treatment team for the child and family.  

Where Social Workers Can Fit  

When treating a child with autism, social workers can play integral roles in supporting emotional identification and regulation, therapeutic listening, and offering support and coordination for caregivers of the children we have the opportunity to serve. Social workers seek to celebrate the strengths of all they encounter, and through treatment, aim to support children and families to celebrate and recognize their growing strengths and positive attributes. 

When seeking treatment for a child with autism, consider adding a social worker to your child’s treatment team. Social workers offer a unique perspective that can foster success, growth, and change.