Megan Lawson


Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), a spectrum of neurodevelopmental disorders with varying severity, presents in early childhood as repetitive or stereotyped behaviors affecting social and emotional functioning, is a complex disorder often misunderstood as a single illness, resulting in suboptimal evaluations and overly-general treatment. However, new research suggests more comprehensive evaluations and targeted treatments. This manual aims to combine the best available research on ASD and attachment to guide practitioners in evaluating and treating children with ASD (a) by clarifying what a comprehensive ASD evaluation looks like, (b) linking assessment results to DSM-5 severity levels, and (c) providing targeted optimal treatment recommendations. Three therapeutic ideals inform this work: • Therapy works best when there is a good match between therapist, therapy, and client. • Relationships heal; attachment moves recovery forward in therapy. • Interventions matter; even severe or unusual conditions respond to therapeutic techniques. Research points to success due to attachment as a feature of the therapist/client bond and to common factors pertaining to the doctrine and the activities of the chosen therapy. Other research shows the value of the therapist as attachment figure facilitating change in attachment style. Neurobiological research documents brain biology responsible for treatable behavioral traits; further neurobiological research attests to the plasticity of the brain and new neural networks produced by social interaction. The manual espouses the three therapeutic characteristics and adds that these assumptions apply to children with ASD, too. Attachment theory can beneficially inform assessment and shape treatment recommendations.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (PsyD) -- Psychology; Autism spectrum disorders in children; Attachment behavior

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Cozolino, Louis;