Series: Autism and the Couch

This is the introduction to a multi-part series about mental health among persons with autism and their loved ones. Check back soon for further installments.

Maybe you’ve watched Rain Man. Perhaps you’ve seen a big-money ad from Autism Speaks or a similar organization. Maybe you’ve perused stories about the largely defunct vaccine debate. Ever heard of Jenny McCarthy?

Autism, it seems, is everywhere. And, in some ways, it is.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, as many as 1 in 110 children in the US have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). How many kids attend your child’s school? Live in your neighborhood, town, or county?

Do the math; autism is all around us.

Your charmingly quirky colleague who knows the city bus schedule inside and out? The silent child who lines up blocks at your son’s day care? Your relative, your friend, your lover? Chances are that you know somebody who has ASD and that person is likely nothing like Rain Man.

Affected individuals vary greatly in their levels of ability and impairment. Woven into this diversity are a few shared traits, which include social impairment, language difficulties and/or delays, and restrictive and repetitive interests.

That said,  persons with ASD are just as diverse as the rest of us.

The above-mentioned triumvirate of impairments can makes the world a challenging place for even the most well-adjusted and competent person with autism. As such, educational, occupational, and psychological support are essential.

Supply, unfortunately, has not caught up with demand.

People on the autism spectrum are especially underserved in the area of mental health. Indeed, I’ve met many children who are booked from morning to night–discrete trial training, psychical therapy, occupational therapy, social groups, tutoring, you name it. These kids are receiving services full-time, often without a careful eye on their psychological health.

Is it anybody’s fault? Not really.

As I mentioned above, need far exceeds resources, which is the crux of this series. Written for practitioners as well as persons affected by autism, this series will provide practical information and resources  along with insight and resources that mental health providers can use to betters serve ASD clients and their loved ones.

Please feel free to leave a comment or send feedback privately to


Welcome to Therapy by the Bay

Hello and welcome.

My name is Alison Panko (Barbara Alison Panko, if you’re the CA Board of Psych) and I’m a psychotherapist-in-training living in sometimes sunny San Francisco. I’m a full-time intern at an agency in the North Bay; there, I see a range of clients, ranging from young people to seniors with dementia.

I’m a psychoanalytic psychotherapist with a relational, interpersonal style (read: not a blank screen). I’m also deeply practical and can see the utility in seeking solutions. I don’t believe that the practical and analytical are antithetical, not a bit.

In addition, I’m a writer, editor, amateur photographer, home cook, and animal lover; I bring all of this with me and more when I work.

Why, might you ask, does the world need yet another therapy blog?  By me? Hmmm, that’s a good question…

I’m here to offer insights about the basics of becoming a psychotherapist here in CA and beyond. I’ll also blog about several issues that are close to my heart, including (but not limited to!) autism, LGBTQI folks and therapy, adoption, depth psychology, managing transitions, and care-taking. Look for news, interviews, and book reviews, as well.

Best, Alison Panko

Disclaimer: I am not a yet a licensed psycotherapist and do not provide psychotherapeutic services via this blog. If you are experiencing a crisis, call your personal therapist, go to you local emergency room, or dial 911. I wish you the best.