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April 2nd was World Autism Awareness Day and April is Autism Awareness month. Every year, I like to try and post something that other parents or those on the spectrum might find useful.

But first... last week Ethan made me smile about the idea of Autism Awareness when he gave what I've now decided is the most Autistic answer ever. The three of us were spending the morning checking out new minivans (don't judge me - I love my minivan).

At the very first dealer a sales person immediately came up to (pounced on) us and introduced himself with an outstretched hand to my husband. "And you are?" the salesman smoothly asked. My husband replied his name. The man repeated his name

The man then shook my hand "Hello, and you are?"

"Risa," I replied and he repeated his name and my name in greeting.

He then reached out to Ethan. "And you are?"

"Me," Ethan said, then got flustered, "I mean, Ethan."

The guys smiled and shook his hand, "Me, I like that. Hi, Ethan."

It was cute, but also extremely telling. Ethan was of course not very practiced in having salesmen introduce themselves and he was caught off guard. Ethan's natural instinct... the hardwiring in his head made him quickly answer, "Me." This is the core of Autism and where the developmental disorder gets its name. Ethan's natural wiring makes him view the world as it is relative to him and versus others around him. But Ethan's had a lot of therapy, so he very quickly (almost split second) realized his mistake and then gave an appropriate response. Ethan was then prepared for the next three dealers and introduced himself easily to the salesmen when prompted.

Ladies and gentlemen, the fruits of a lot of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

So that's what I'll share this year. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has become the cornerstone of Ethan's therapy and our parenting style. When he was younger early intervention and therapy evolved. He started with more structured ABA/DTT and it progressed into generalized therapy and play based therapy. But as he grew older and more aware (around 9/10 years old), his therapists introduced CBT based interventions such as the "Incredible 5-point scale" and other techniques for him to work on emotional regulation. As he reached middle school we relied on social skills that were taught using CBT techniques. CBT has been around awhile in general personal therapy to help address issues by taking on action oriented approaches. It's now become a critical tool for those on the moderate to high end of the spectrum as they mature.

My caveat for all therapies has always been that no "one" therapy is superior and it truly depends on the individual and most benefit from a 'cocktail' of various approaches. But for those with a teen/young adult on their hands may be wondering what to do now. There are many resources that are CBT based. I think that Michelle Garcia Winner's Social Thinking also falls under this heading. Many of Ethan's therapists had some training or familiarity with her techniques. My plan for the summer is to introduce the book Socially Curious and Curiously Social to Ethan. I'll let you know how it goes. I previously reviewed the New Social Story Book here.

There are many more resources out there and I see CBT as a place to go as your child starts to outgrow early intervention therapies.