Treating Autism 

By Dr. Dipl. -Psych Sarah Fitzroy – English Psychologist in Berlin

What is autism?

Autism is a well known neurodevelopmental condition that can have social, emotional and behavioural implications. Many people have been living with autism for years and currently the National Autistic Society estimates that one in 100 people are on the autism spectrum.

Autism: a historic background

The way we view Autism has changed dramatically since Leo Kanner first spoke about his observation of ‘abnormal behaviors’ in 1943. In 1944, Hans Asperger noted some children could have social difficulties but be high functioning in other areas such as language, hence the term ‘Aspergers’ was created to refer to those functioning well in life but facing some difficulties with social situations.  In 1979, Lorna Wing and Judith Gould devised the triad of autism to diagnose which included difficulties with social communication, interaction and imagination.

How autism is defined today

Autism is currently defined as a spectrum condition, characterised by difficulties with social communication, social interactions, having repetitive behaviour, specific interests, challenging behaviors, anxiety and sensory challenges. Usually a person with autism may find change of routines and social situations to be anxiety provoking. This can have severe impacts on socialising and coping with everyday life events. However, the high focus of attention to specific areas can also mean that people with autism excel in their chosen career pathways. These days, more is known about complexities of autism and the stigma has been greatly reduced.

Identifying autism

Each day many children, young people and adults are diagnosed with autism. Usually autism is diagnosed by the time children are school aged but often symptoms can be more subtle (often in girls) due to masking and the desire to fit in with the peer group. This means that autism can sometimes be missed until some one reaches adolescence or adulthood. As Autism is now described as a spectrum condition, this can help to provide a person centered approach to meet the varying needs and ensuring the right support is provided. For instance,  parents can receive the appropriate support at home and school for their child which may include working with mental health professionals such as a behavioural therapist and/or psychologist to provide emotion regulation and behaviour support. There may also be need for medication from a psychiatrist. With the right support, children and young people can often go onto to leading full and rewarding lives with autism, often finding fulfilling careers in their area of special interest.

 Dr Dipl. -Psych Sarah Fitzroy is a Berlin based English speaking psychologist specializing in Autism

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