Meet Dr. Cathryn Lehman, PhD! Lehman is a Psychologist at the UPMC Center for Autism and Developmental Disorders. She is responsible for the diagnosis and treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder and co-occurring conditions, as well as assessment for several of research studies.
1.) What led you to this career path?
“When I was in graduate school, I took a summer job working at a camp for children on the Autism Spectrum. The unique ways in which they saw and interacted with the world were so intriguing to me that I completely changed the direction of my studies to focus on ASD.”
2.) What is your favorite part of your job?
“I prefer to do assessment. That surprises most people because the presentation of a new diagnosis can be somewhat uncomfortable. It is a day, a moment even, that is often etched in a parent’s mind forever. I try to be very sensitive to that and help parents to see their whole child and not just this new label.”
3.) Why is therapy so important for children and adolescents with Autism?
“In addition to difficulties directly associated with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, such as social problems, children on the Autism Spectrum often experience other symptoms such as anxiety, depression, inattention, behavioral problems, and/or OCD. There is something called diagnostic overshadowing that can sometimes get in the way of individuals receiving proper treatment for these things. This is when someone says that all of an individual’s symptoms can be attributed to one diagnosis, like Autism, rather than seeing other symptoms for what they are. It is important to address symptoms individually because progress in any of these areas can make a significant difference in an individual’s quality of life.”
4.) What advice would you give to parents of a child newly diagnosed with Autism?
“Find supports for yourself and connect with other parents who are also raising a child with Autism. Having the support of people who have been in your shoes can be immensely helpful. You cannot give your child what they need if you are not taking care of yourself.”
5.) What is one thing you wish everyone knew about Autism?
“Children with Autism are just like other children in that they are all unique. They are intelligent, thoughtful, caring, artistic, passionate, creative, funny, and so much more. They deserve love, respect, and for those around them to have an open mind.”