In honor of Autism Acceptance Month, we recently spoke with Dr. Emily Bradshaw who serves as a Licensed Clinical Psychologist at Centra’s Autism & Developmental Services Clinic (CADS). This clinic takes a multi-disciplinary approach to treating the mental health challenges and developmental disabilities of children, adolescents, and young adults across central and southern Virginia.
Autism may be a prominent term in the name of this clinic, but the CADS Clinic does so much more. “In addition to providing supports for children with profound impact of autism traits, our clinic is also here for those children and adolescents who have developed maladaptive coping strategies with behaviors consistent with anxiety, executive functioning impact and symptoms of depression,” expressed Dr. Bradshaw.
Another goal of the CADS Clinic is to combat misperceptions and preconceived notions surrounding autism. It is extremely common for there to be variability of symptoms among patients who have been diagnosed with autism, and these symptoms often include a broader scope of behaviors past what could be listed in a textbook.
Dr. Bradshaw explained that the quote, “If you know a person with autism, then you know one person with autism,” couldn’t be truer because the presentation of symptoms in individuals with autism is highly diverse. An example of this variability is how autism often presents itself differently in female patients from male patients. Girls are sometimes diagnosed with a personality disorder, anxiety or depression while the root of these diagnoses–autism–remains undetected.
With a team of psychiatric and pediatric specialists in addition to behavior analysts, counselors, occupational therapists and speech language pathologists, the CADS Care Team continues to partner with local providers and pediatricians to provide seminars related to psycho-education in addition to working with counseling groups and other organizations such as Girl Scouts.
While the impact that the CADS Clinic has had on our community is expansive, Dr. Bradshaw shared that one of the most rewarding parts of her work at the clinic has been watching the sense of relief that can wash over a patient when they learn that the developmental and social challenges they have experienced have an actual cause with a name. She believes that understanding their diagnosis frees autistic children and adolescents to learn what their personal strengths and weaknesses are.
In the words of Dr. Bradshaw, “I work with a lot of bright individuals. I get to foster brilliance by supporting them in areas they love. I truly believe these patients could be the people who cure cancer or make amazing breakthroughs in technology. When navigating an autism diagnosis, the best place to start is having a positive outlook that pushes past the present circumstances and behaviors.”