Accepting an autism diagnosis

Allison Kawa, Child Psychologist, shares advice for parents on how to accept an autism diagnosis.
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Accepting an autism diagnosis

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It can be very difficult for a parent to hear that their child has an Autism Spectrum diagnosis. And certainly a layer of denial can play into a lot of the evaluations that I conduct. One of the ways that I try and help families get ready to hear the news is by giving them feedback along the way. So for example, I might observe a child at school and then typically I'll call the parent to touch base. And I might inform them, "Oh, I noticed that your son wasn't really engaging with the other children in the way I would expect him to," or, "His language didn't seem to be quite as developed or sophisticated as that of his peers." In an appointment, if a child engages in a stereotyped behavior, I'll often point that out to the parent like, "Oh, I noticed he got really excited when I blew bubbles and he's flapping his hands and walking on his toes." I will voice concerns. I might say, "Well, I'm sort of concerned about developmental issues in your son's case." And in that way, I try and lay the groundwork and help the parent to see that there is a difference in their child's development relative to what we would be expecting for that child.

Allison Kawa, Child Psychologist, shares advice for parents on how to accept an autism diagnosis.

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Allison Kawa, PsyD

Child Psychologist

Alison Kawa is a licensed child psychologist specializing in the evaluation of children and adolescents.  Her pre- and post-doctoral training emphasized child and adolescent testing.  She was a fellow in the UCLA Autism Evaluation Clinic where she acquired extensive training in the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders and a range of other developmental disorders.  During this time, she also obtained certification from the University of Michigan Autism and Communication Disorders Center (UMACC) on the gold standard instruments (i.e., ADI-R and ADOS) used in autism evaluations.  Following her fellowship, she became Senior Assessor at UCLA where she worked for four years.

Alison completed the PsychoEducational Diagnostic Services Program (PEDS) Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Pediatric Assessment at the Reiss Davis Child Study Center at Vista Del Mar.  In this setting, she conducted comprehensive psychoeducational evaluations for children and adolescents with a diverse range of issues including ADHD, Learning Disabilities, mood disorders, and anxiety disorders.  She also completed the Child Therapy in a School Setting program offered by Phillips Graduate Institute, where she gained training and experience in play therapy, social skills groups, and therapeutic interventions appropriate for adolescents. 

While completing her graduate training in psychology, she held a staff position at Working With Autism, Inc., where she worked individually with children with autism, provided case management and supervision, and developed and implemented a staff-training curriculum.  It was through this position that she acquired a love for teaching and training. In addition to her private practice, she teaches pre- and post-doctoral fellows at the Reiss Davis Child Study Center at Vista Del Mar, where she also works as a supervisor and consultant.

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