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Autism Treatment

Read Dr. Brunner’s Austism blogs to see inside his perspective

What is autism?

I have conducted hundreds of Autism evaluations in the Tucson AZ area and beyond over the last 20 years. 

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), or autism, is a developmental disability. It is neurologically-based, meaning people are born with autism, and it is a lifelong disability. There are many different variations autism symptoms can take. Autism could also be accompanied by a variety of other disorders or disabilities including intellectual impairment, a language disability, or ADHD.  

Because autism is expressed through your unique personality, each person has a unique experience and expression of autism. Skilled clinicians do not simply diagnose you with autism.  Rather, they put your autism into the context of your personality. 10 people with autism  are 10 very different people. Autism falls along a spectrum from mild to severe.  There are specific levels of impairment that the clinician must also assess for.  Parents may not be aware that their children have autism until later childhood, and some people may not be diagnosed until well into adulthood.

What problems indicate autism assessment is necessary?

  • Lack of empathy for others
  • Consistent social awkwardness, or not understanding social cues/norms
  • Inability to pick up on subtle humor
  • Overly narrow interest in things that become preoccupations, bordering obsessions
  • Problems creating or maintaining friendships
  • Overly “robotic” behavior or monotone voice quality
  • Saying or doing things that do not fit with the social context
  • Lack of eye contact, especially with young children

What does autism assessment clarify?

  • What level of autism you have, and any accompanying diagnoses (e.g., with language impairment)
  • The severity of your autism symptoms
  • What other problems (immaturity, speech impairments, ADHD, rigidity) you have that are contributing to the autism 
  • What combination of evidence-based treatments will help you the most. See list of evidence based treatments. 
  • Which practitioners will most effectively help you
  • What natural resources you can use to minimize the potential need for medication 
  • Any accommodations you may need in school or at work to be the most successful
  • What social skills techniques will help you get along with others best
  • How autism interacts with your general personality characteristics
  • How to use your predominating personality characteristics to combat the autism 

What are the hidden realities of autism?

After conducting research and practicing in the trenches for over 20 years, we want to share some “insider information” about the camouflaged realities of austim:

  • You may be experiencing diagnostic symptoms of autism, but your symptoms may be driven by another diagnostic condition (e.g., depression) or life problems (e.g., immaturity) that is hidden under the surface
  • Some of the most common, but hidden, problems that can cause autism include emotional neglect or Reactive Attachment Disorder in childhood.  
  • Many people who are diagnosed with autism do not actually have the condition, they just have very unique personalities.  
  • Often times, people who are gifted or have a genius level of intelligence can seem as if they have autism, whereas in reality they just don’t care as much about trying to fit in socially

How we go beyond generic autism diagnosis?

Many clinicians narrowly focus on autism diagnosis, and forget that your experience of autism is individualized to your unique personality. Using our personality-driven diagnostic model, we focus on helping you clearly and confidently grasp exactly how autism is affecting you, and what personality strengths you can use to combat the autism. Read Dr. Brunner’s blog: Great psychological assessment goes far beyond diagnosis.

How do we assess autism?

Very methodically and carefully.  Too many healthcare practices make you feel like you are on a conveyor belt where you receive a “drive-by” evaluation.  We offer you the opposite experience.  For example, we build into our assessment system numerous checks and balances  to ensure our ultimate diagnosis is accurate.  After having evaluated over 1,000 people in the last 20 years, we know there is an incredible amount of misdiagnoses. Read my blogs below for further information. 

What are the elements of our assessment process?

  • Methodically gathering historical information the following categories: family history, birth, development, medical, neurological, educational, learning, emotional, behavioral, social, and academic or work performance

  • Asking you to create a chronological timeline of important events to ensure we understand the life of the person being evaluated as a series of different stages. This is critical to get a nuanced, in-depth understanding for the person we are evaluating

  • Reviewing this information together during the intake appointment, and beginning to develop hypotheses that we will scientifically review by collecting data.

  • Interviewing the people who have the most intimate knowledge of the day-to-day functioning of the person being evaluated. Unlike practitioners who only collect information from the person being evaluated, or only their parents, we believe that collecting this additional perspectives is vital to establishing a confident and credible diagnosis.

  • Choosing a tailored group of measurements that include self-report questionnaires, intelligence or cognitive tests, and personality measures that identify your predominating characteristics

  • Rigorously testing different hypotheses designed to play devils advocate to test our perception of the situation, and following up with questions to either the person being evaluated or those who know the person best.

  • Writing a report tailored to the exact needs of the situation. We specialize in customizing your report to address different situations, such as the need for workplace or educational accommodations.

  • Conducting a feedback meeting in our conference room where we use a dry erase board to visually show you the important factors causing the problems the person being evaluated is experiencing. We call this our cognitive map, and it serves as a user-friendly roadmap. You can take a picture of and always have your roadmap with you for guidance.

  • During the feedback meeting, we clarify the diagnostic conditions at play, the non-diagnostic but critical factors contributing to problems, and give you bullet-point, user-friendly recommendations, organized into thematic groups. We clarify what professionals can best serve you, and save you the most money and time.

  • After this feedback meeting, we follow-up with you to make sure that our work has met your expectations, and/or to provide further consultations to make sure our work is resulting in the life changes you are seeking.