International Meeting for Autism Research: The Dyadic Psychoanalytic Treatment of Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

The Dyadic Psychoanalytic Treatment of Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Friday, May 21, 2010
Franklin Hall B Level 4 (Philadelphia Marriott Downtown)
3:00 PM
S. P. Sherkow , New York Psychoanalytic Institute, New York, NY
W. Singletary , Margaret S. Mahler Psychiatric Research Foundation, Wynnewood, PA

For many years, children with Autism Spectrum Disorder were thought to be suffering from a psychological disorder--the product of a failed bond between mother and infant. However, recent developments in autism research have led to models of ASD in which neurobiological factors are seen as interfering with the development of the social brain system and thus, with social engagement and emotional connections including the child's relationship with the mother. Unfortunately, the current multidisciplinary approach to the treatment of ASD usually excludes psychotherapy which, in fact, can help to preserve and nurture the bond between mother and child. Thus, psychotherapy can play an indispensable role in facilitating the child's development and ability to engage in and benefit from other treatments.

The poster will aim to educate about ways in which a multidisciplinary approach that includes psychotherapy for both the child and mother can be used in a clinical setting for the treatment of young children with ASD. It will also highlight recent evidence of neuroplastic changes taking place in children undergoing psychoanalytic and other treatments for ASD.


This poster will describe a dyadic approach to treatment for children with autism that both engages the child on a psychodynamic level and works toward addressing the mother’s need to repair the rupture she perceives as having occurred between her and her child as a result of the child’s condition. Accordingly, this allows successful, continued progress of both the psychoanalytic treatment and other ongoing management of the child’s disorder.


To illustrate use of this approach in a clinical setting, the poster will include excerpts from the treatment of “Johnny,” a two-and-a-half-year-old boy on the autistic spectrum, and will also detail the methodology used in this approach and illustrate developmental themes as they unfold in the course of treatment.


As a result of this treatment, “Johnny’s” relationships with his family and others around him improved dramatically and initiated further developmental and social-behavioral improvement. The poster will reflect on these changes both anecdotally as well as through clinical reevaluation toward the end of treatment.

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