Family Coaching


Family coaching and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) are for parents and carers of children and young people with diagnosed or suspected Autism, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA), and co-existing conditions. Please note, reference to ‘parents’ in this website also includes carers and guardians of children and young people. A diagnosis is not required and coaching is often undertaken to explore the possibility of suspected conditions.

Life can be extremely hard coping with the complex difficulties of parenting a son or daughter with these conditions. As a parent of two adult sons with these conditions, I know firsthand just how challenging life can be. I draw on this personal insight and understanding when helping the families I work with. All techniques are non-confrontational, risk assessed and uniquely tailored to your family’s specific needs.

I welcome and respect the parent view because I believe that you are the expert on your family. I listen, and I work with that expertise. Together, we will explore how these conditions affect your family as a whole. We will work side by side, using your parenting strengths and beliefs to develop understanding and insight into the specific issues you are facing.  We will develop practical strategies to help you overcome the daily problems. Working together, we aim to raise the self-esteem of your child or young person and reduce anxiety and stress for the family as a whole.

Historically, different diagnostic labels have been used for Autism to reflect the different profiles. For example: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC), Asperger’s Syndrome, High Functioning Autism (HFA), and Pervasive Developmental Delay (PDD). Clinicians are now more commonly using ASD, reflecting the 2013 changes in the diagnostic manuals. As PDA is not currently listed in the diagnostic manuals, clinicians will commonly include, ‘demand avoidant profile’ or ‘Pathological Demand Avoidance profile’ to describe the presentation.

Typical areas of focus

Difficulties in the following areas:

  • Autism, ADHD or PDA and how they affect your son or daughter

  • Recognising similarities in yourself or other family members

  • Managing emotions or feeling emotions intensely

  • Anxiety in child, parent or other family members

  • Aggressive or violent behaviour and meltdowns

  • PDA and Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD)

  • Morning and evening routines

  • School issues, including school refusal, bullying and homeschooling

  • Sibling rivalry and confrontation

  • Confidence and self esteem

  • Insomnia and sleep difficulties

  • Hyperactivity and impulsivity

  • Independence skills

  • Obsessions and passionate interests (including gaming/internet addictions)

  • Toileting issues

  • Food avoidance or food seeking

  • Sensory differences

  • Auditory Processing Disorder

Study related difficulties in the following areas:

  • Homework

  • Focus and concentration

  • Organisation, planning and memory

  • Distractibility and procrastination

  • Motivation

  • Managing projects, homework deadlines and workload

  • Demand avoidance

Social and communication difficulties in the following areas:

  • Communicating with your child, teenager or young adult

  • Friendships

  • Social skills

  • Starting and maintaining conversations

Transition from adolescence to adulthood:

  • Transition to college or university life

  • Relationships and friendships

  • Independent or supported living

As a qualified Cognitive Behavioural Therapist, I also work with mental health conditions, such as:

  • Depression

  • General anxiety, social anxiety, health anxiety

  • Self harm

  • Phobia

  • Panic attacks

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

  • Trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

  • Attachment difficulties

  • Eating disorders


Children 0-12 years

In this age group regular appointments are mostly undertaken with parents rather than the child.

I tend to work with the parents of children in this age group for several reasons. If I work directly with a child, they may be highly motivated to agree changes with me, but they may then find it difficult to carry them out at a particular moment, when their emotions and motivation have changed. Parents are in a unique position as they are most often the ones right there with the child to give the cues and prompts to support them when they need it most.

You know your child best and you will be with them as they transition through the different stages of their lives. If I can help you to gain the understanding and knowledge you need, then you and your child will be in a better position to communicate and work together through issues as they arise. You may also feel more confident to advocate for them with professionals, school staff and others coming into contact with them through the years.  

Teens 13-18 years

Navigating the teenage years can be challenging for any family but young people with these complex conditions can face additional difficulties in a complex world. Increasing pressure nearing exams can create greater problems with anxiety, motivation and concentration. Social communication becomes more complex within their peer group, and although they may be average or above average in terms of their intellect, many are behind their peers socially and emotionally. Young people with ADHD may give way to impulsivity or risk-taking behaviour when away from parental supervision.

Within this age group, I can work with the parent or the young person directly.

The first contact with Side by Side is usually from the parent so we will explore your unique situation to work out the best way forward. Working with the teenager would sometimes be preferable, but they may find it hard to engage through anxiety or may be resistant if they do not consider they need support. In these instances, I work with the parent to address the barriers in order to move forwards.

Family members 18 years +

Please see our ‘Adult Coaching’ section for more information.

For more information about this service please  Contact Us and select ‘Family Coaching.’

‘Cathy has helped me and my family through a particularly difficult time in a sensitive and understanding way. Her support has been a real lifeline for me. I have a better understanding of my daughter’s behaviour and am better equipped with strategies for dealing with her. Our relationship is improving. Thank you, Cathy, you have been brilliant.’
— PDA adult.