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What Is Occupational Therapy For Autism

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Occupational Therapy Activities In Autism Also Discusses Sensory Breaks:

Activity breaks enhance a childs performance. These form the sensory breaks and they are an integral part of a childs schedule.

Sensory breaks include jumping in the corner for a certain count. Singing a song, or playing a musical instrument for some time is another example. Water break, toilet break, bursting a bubble wrap also contribute to sensory breaks.

This is how the therapist selects Occupational Therapy activities in Autism intervention.


Occupational Therapist: What To Expect

Occupational therapists enable people of all abilities, including those with autism, to function in their everyday lives. They assess an individuals situation by drawing upon evidence-based approaches and applying their specialized knowledge and skills to recommend a course of preventative or corrective action that will help people lead more productive and satisfying lives.

OTs look at three main areas of occupation that are essential for human health:

  • Self-care: these activities are performed for the purpose of maintaining oneself, such as showering, dressing and eating. These are also known as activities of daily living.
  • Productivity: these activities fill the bulk of ones day, such as employment or being a student.
  • Leisure: these activities are ones personal preferences and interests, such as soccer, gardening, or playing outside.

Occupational Therapy Session For Autism How Do I Find An Occupational Therapist

The first source to check with about finding an Occupational Therapist for your child would be your pediatrician. Many pediatricians are able to refer patients to well-known Occupational Therapists in the area that have their own private practice. Remember, early intervention is key to helping your child but even if your child is older, an Occupational Therapist can help. Occupational Therapists are trained to help individuals at any stage in life, from infants to the elderly.

Most children with autism are able to access Occupational Therapy through their school. From preschool to high school, students with disabilities are required to have access to this therapy. The majority of insurance plans will also help to cover the need for private Occupational Therapy. Depending on the severity of your childs autism, there may be a state waiver that allows your family to access Occupational Therapy through the use of Medicaid.

Occupational Therapy Session for Autism is the best holistic approach to all individuals with autism, regardless of age. It can provide the much-needed skills during childhood that will lead to a happy, successful life for your child with autism. Occupational Therapy can also offer parents the necessary support and resources they need when faced with the challenge of raising a child with a developmental disorder. Autism may not have a cure, but the symptoms of the disorder can be mitigated through Occupational Therapy.


Functioning With Severe Autism

Level 3 autism can require of support and ongoing care into adulthood. But with treatment, individuals with severe autism can learn how to manage some of their symptoms to perform daily life tasks.

Without treatment, it can be difficult for a person with severe autism to communicate effectively or perform simple tasks, such as grooming, toileting, and feeding themselves. Social skills may be nonexistent.

Many people with low-functioning autism are nonverbal. Therapies can teach them communication skills that do not require language or verbal speech, giving them a way to communicate with the world around them.

Someone with a less severe form of autism will be more apt to learn social, communication, and behavioral skills that can allow them to function more freely in society. People with a mild to moderate level of autism can often support themselves, even hold jobs, and live on their own.

Severe autism indicates a higher level of impairment and disability. It will typically mean that a person requires continuous support and will be unable to live alone.

What Other Disorders Are Similar To Autism

How Does Occupational Therapy Help Children With Autism ...

Autism is often referred to as autism spectrum disorders. Severity and signs and symptoms vary greatly from person to person. Other terms are used to describe disorders that are similar to or even part of autism spectrum disorders. These disorders are typically included under the term pervasive developmental disorder.

Pointers For Occupational Therapy Activities In Autism:

Say a child attends an art-based activity and seeks movement. He is allowed to sit on a wobbly chair or a therapy ball at the table. This provides ample movement thus increasing focus on performance.

An overstimulated child is overwhelmed, giggly, cranky, or yawning.

Flapping or stimming may be signs of calming an overstimulated system.

Who Provides Occupational Therapy

A licensed Occupational Therapist provides OT services. He/she has a masters degree and has passed a national certification exam .

In addition, OTs must obtain a license in their state. You can learn more on the American Occupational Therapy Association website.

In some cases, therapy services are provided by an Occupational Therapy Assistant . This is a person with an associates or bachelors degree, who is trained and supervised by a certified OT. The assistant works directly with the person with autism to practice skills and work towards goals that are written by the OT in the clinical treatment plan.

What Does An Occupational Therapist Do With Autism And Autism Spectrum Disorder

A pediatric occupational therapist provides their services to the autistic kids. The occupational therapist uses different functional approaches to control the behavior and inappropriate action.

Occupational therapist helps the autistic kids to participate in the activities of daily living , educational activities, playing activities and social activities.

Occupational therapy services for the autistic child include assessment, intervention, and follow-up.

Read Morewhat does an occupational therapist do?

Occupational therapy assessment for autism-

The occupational therapy evaluation and assessment process are designed to gain an understanding of the individuals skill, his/her abilities, and disabilities.

Occupational therapist performs many standardized and non-standardized scale to assess the areas of dysfunction. Autistic kids dont always cooperate and help the therapist to assess. More often, the therapist must rely on informal play observation, parent/teacher questionnaires to obtain information about the childs developmental maturity, sensorimotor responses, and functional capabilities

Some screening tools can be used by the therapist

  • Autism checklist
  • Childhood autism rating scale
  • Sensory Profile
  • Diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorder- DSM-IV

In short, Occupational therapist evaluate autistic kids in these areas-

  • Social skills-
  • Eye to eye contact, peer relationship, interaction with others etc.

  • Communication-
  • Sensory Processing-
  • Behavior-
  • Case Study-

    The Role Of Occupational Therapy In Treating Asd

    Occupational therapists evaluate the current developmental levels of children and adults with autism, aiming to improve their ability to self-regulate emotions and participate in social interactions. Through interventions, OTs can help people with autism build on their areas of strength and overcome their limitations.

    Whats The Role Of Occupational Therapy In Treating Autism Spectrum Disorder

    Occupational therapists study human growth and development and a personâs interaction with the environment through daily activities. They are experts in the social, emotional, and physiological effects of illness and injury. This knowledge helps them promote skills for independent living in people with autism and other developmental disorders.

    Occupational therapists work as part of a team that includes parents, teachers, and other professionals. They help set specific goals for the person with autism. These goals often involve social interaction, behavior, and classroom performance.

    Occupational therapists can help in two main ways: evaluation and therapy.

    Common Occupational Therapy Interventions For Autism

    After completing the evaluation, the occupational therapist works with the patient and family to develop an intervention plan and treatment goals. Occupational therapy interventions for autism may include:,

    • Focusing on sensory integration and sensory-based strategies.
    • Emphasizing mental health and wellness.
    • Implementing emotional development and self-regulation strategies and programs.
    • Organizing peer groups, social participation, and play activities.
    • Improving self-care routines to help with daily activities such as bathing, feeding, and grooming.
    • Working on motor development.
    • Supporting an adolescents transition into adulthood and helping them build skills to enter the workforce.
    • Using cognitive behavioral approaches to support positive behaviors.

    What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder

    Autism Spectrum Disorder is the most prevalent neurodevelopmental disorder. It affects about 500,000 people around the world. Autism diagnosis most often occurs in childhood. Moreover, Autism Speaks Canada predicts that 1 in 42 boys and 1 in of 189 girls will be autistic.

    ASD can impact every area of a persons life and each case is unique. Occupation performance refers to the ability to do daily activities, such as self-care and daily living. It also includes education, leisure and recreation for children. As well as their ability to communicate and socially engage. 

    Speech And Occupational Therapy For Autism

    How does Occupational Therapy help Children with Autism ...

    In addition to occupational therapy, speech therapy might be beneficial for your child with autism. Speech-language pathologists work closely with occupational therapists. The overlap in their practices includes helping clients with feeding, swallowing, cognition, posture, and language learning difficulties. If your child struggles to communicate verbally, your childs occupational therapist will likely recommend enlisting the help of a speech-language pathologist.

    The Speech Pathology Graduate Program organization explains that while both occupational therapists and speech-language pathologists are concerned with a childs ability to communicate verbally, their approaches and focuses are different. An occupational therapists main area of focus will be the childs attention span and social abilities. They might teach sound creation skills but also focus largely on socialization exercises and sensory integration therapy. A speech-language pathologist will focus on building language-learning skills and teaching the child to form sounds and build them into words and sentences .

    Tips On Supporting Skills Development At Home

    Some basic tips on supporting skill development and performance with people on the autism spectrum:

    • When teaching or practicing a skill, ensure that the individual is in a calm, regulated and just right state for learning
    • Visual supports can help to make the tasks and expectations clear and easy to follow, so use visuals for tasks and routines.   
    • Gradually reduce the amount of prompting that you are providing to an individual when learning and practicing a skill. Start with physical prompts and as the individual demonstrates success gradually reduce the level of prompting to modelling , gestures , verbal instructions and finally visual prompts.
    • Vary the environment, equipment and with who the skills are practiced with to support individuals with generalising their learnt skills to different environments, contexts and with different people. This will maximise the individuals success with skill maintenance and prevent it from decreasing or disappearing.


    How Can Pediatric Occupational Therapy Help A Child With Autism

    Occupational therapists utilize various strategies to help maximize an autistic childs independence with daily tasks such as writing in school, playing, getting dressed, using utensils, and cutting with scissors. With an emphasis on areas such as fine motor development, hand-eye coordination, and sensory integration, an occupational therapist will analyze task demands and help address the skills needed for children with autism to succeed.  

    Related Reading: NAPA OT shares the most important lessons she has learned from working with autistic children

    What Is Occupational Therapy

    Occupational therapists work to promote, maintain, and develop the skills needed by students to be functional in a school setting and beyond.  Active participation in life promotes: 

    • learning 
    • independence 
    • social interaction. 

    Occupational therapists use a holistic approach in planning programmes. They take into account the physical, social, emotional, sensory and cognitive abilities and needs of students.

    In the case of autism, an occupational therapist works to develop skills for handwriting, fine motor skills and daily living skills. However, the most essential role is also to assess and target the childs sensory processing disorders. This is beneficial to remove barriers to learning and help the students become calmer and more focused.

    OTs working with children who have a sensory processing disorder often have postgraduate training in sensory integration.

    Sensory integration therapy is based on the assumption that the child is either over stimulated or under stimulated by the environment. Therefore, the aim of sensory integration therapy is to improve the ability of the brain to process sensory information so that the child will function better in his/her daily activities.

    Children are often prescribed a sensory diet/lifestyle by the occupational therapist.

    Play In Occupational Therapy

    Besides being an activity that exists in every stage of life, play is the most proper way for a child to learn the world he/she lives in and to express emotions such as happiness, anxiety, and joy particularly during the first years of life. Bundy describes it as play is a transaction between an individual and the environmental that is intrinsically motivated, internally controlled, and free of many of constraints of objective reality .

    Play is primer occupation of the child. Through play, children can gain developmental milestones, learn about occupational role, behaviours, and how to interact safely and appropriately within their environment. Children with autism display atypical and insufficient play skills at different levels. This atypical and insufficient play skill is generally reported as playing with a toy stereotypically which is not suitable for its function, lack of social skill, flexibility and creativity skill to continue the play. Developments in symbolic activity, play and social relation areas observed in children younger than three years of age are not generally reported in children with autism . Rare interaction of children with autism with their peers limits their attainment of playing in solitary and group plays with their peers . Since game playing requires developed motor planning and praxis skill, this may result in childs showing motor planning and praxis during play .

    How Occupational Therapists Work With Autistic Children

    Typically, occupational therapists work with children who have autism spectrum disorder in school. They may work in the classroom or pull the child out to work with them one on one. In some cases, schools have “sensory rooms” where children can interact with indoor swings, balls, trampolines, and other equipment. In other cases, the therapist may bring along exercise balls, jump ropes, and other equipment. In addition, therapists may:

    • Use techniques to help strengthen the child’s hands, legs, or core
    • Provide tools such as a weighted vest or large pencil to improve focus and make certain tasks easier
    • Work with the child in typical school settings such as recess, gym, art class, or music class

    In some cases, particularly with very young children, therapists come to the child’s home. They may even work directly with parents, showing parents how to continue therapeutic intervention even when the therapist is not present.

    About Autism Child Development Centre

    We are offering latest treatments under one roof in a comfortable & child-friendly environment. Our aim is to provide multi-disciplinary rehabilitation for children with autism spectrum disorders and other neurodevelopmental disorders like Mental retardation, Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Cerebral palsy, Rett syndrome, Learning disability, Global developmental delay, etc.

    Picture Exchange Communication System

    This form of therapy teaches children to trade pictures for items or activities. The system is designed for those who donât speak, canât understand, or are difficult to understand. PECS may not work for kids who donât try to communicate or arenât interested in particular objects, activities or food. A review of research on PECS found that those who used it had some improvements in communication but little or no gains in speech.

    NIH: âWhat Are the Treatments for Autism Spectrum Disorder ?â

    American Academy of Pediatrics: âManagement of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders.â

    American Speech-Language-Hearing Association: âAutism .â

    Autism Speaks: âApplied Behavior Analysis .â

    CDC: âAutism Spectrum Disorder Treatment.â

    Texas Education Agency: âSocial Skills Training SST).â

    Indiana Resource Center for Autism: âSuccessfully Using PECS with Children with ASD.â

    US National Library of Medicine: âEffectiveness of the Picture Exchange Communication System on Communication and Speech for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Meta-analysis.â

    The Effectiveness Of Occupational Therapy

    Autism Telehealth Options for Your Child

    Occupational therapy is highly effective at developing sensory-integration skills and interventions to improve quality of life for children and adults with autism. Studies have found that an array of OT interventions are effective for promoting positive outcomes in students with autism.

    OT benefits a variety of areas of life, and various interventions can be used, including:

    • Sensory-integration and sensory-based interventions.
    • Parent-directed or parent-mediated interventions.
    • Intensive behavioral interventions.

    Through a review of occupational therapy studies and interventions, researchers identified that OT is well aligned with the principles of ASD intervention. OT interventions have a history and demonstrated effectiveness of improving symptoms of ASD.

    Research supports the use of comprehensive individualized assessments of the individuals current performance in order to develop effective intervention strategies. Likewise, family-centered, interdisciplinary approaches that include play and are activity-based are highly effective.

    Which Skills Can An Ot Help Address

    Occupational therapy practitioners have an educational background in areas such as anatomy and biology, human development, kinesiology , psychology, and client-centered care. This puts OT practitioners in a unique position to provide holistic care, or care that focuses on the whole person and their accompanying needs.

    If your child is referred for OT services, they will first complete a comprehensive evaluation as a way to fully understand your child, your family, and your needs and goals. Once this is completed, your OT can assist your child and family with developing skills in many areas. Below is a listing and brief description of some of the most common areas addressed in occupational therapy for autism.

    What Are The Benefits Of Occupational Therapy For Asd

    The overall goal of occupational therapy is to help the person with autism improve their quality of life at home and in school. The therapist helps introduce, maintain, and improve skills so that people with autism can be as independent as possible.

    These are some of the skills occupational therapy may foster:

    • Daily living skills, such as toilet training, dressing, brushing , and other grooming skills
    • Fine motor skills required for holding objects while handwriting or cutting with scissors
    • Gross motor skills used for walking, climbing stairs, or riding a bike
    • Sitting, posture, or perceptual skills, such as telling the differences between colors, shapes, and sizes
    • Awareness of their body and its relation to others
    • Visual skills for reading and writing
    • Play, coping, self-help, problem solving, communication, and social skills
    • Develop peer and adult relationships
    • Learn how to focus on tasks
    • Learn how to delay gratification
    • Express feelings in more appropriate ways
    • Engage in play with peers
    • Learn how to self-regulate

    Why Is Occupational Therapy Important For Autistic Children

    Corinna Laurie, specialist occupational therapist consulting at the NAS Helen Allison School and director of Evolve Children’s Therapy Services Ltd, explains what occupation therapy is and how it can help autistic children. Corinna explores the essential role of occupational therapy intervention for autistic children and gives examples of the therapeutic interventions and simple strategies to target sensory processing disorders.

    Autistic children and those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder tend to exhibit significantly different patterns of sensory processing to their peers and to children with other special educational needs . 

    It is estimated that 60 to 70 per cent of autistic children present with sensory modulation/processing disorder . Studies have shown that people with autism are slower to integrate inputs coming in from their senses, making their processing speed much slower. This may go some way towards explaining why autistic children are often subject to meltdowns.

    Autistic children lack the appropriate filters to screen out irrelevant information and this can cause meltdown as each input builds and builds without being filtered out appropriately. They may be still processing, for example, the earlier noise in the corridor at the same time as trying to deal with new inputs from the teacher and fellow students in the classroom. As one student said to me recently, I cannot keep reading because my eyes are full up at the moment.

    The Therapist Modifies Activity In Autism Intervention:

    The therapist adds to the activity when the child achieves a level of ease. Standalone swinging gets a target element. Crawling changes to crawling with rings to put in a stand. Climbing and jumping on crash pillows and moving from different suspension elements. It is essential to follow all safety protocols when a child engages in them.

    How Is Occupational Therapy Used In Treating Autism

    Occupational therapists use their skills to improve sensory processing, emotional regulation and fine/gross motor development. Occupational therapy is a holistic approach that offers a unique perspective. They hold advanced degrees and have received a lot of training in the field. Moreover, they are highly skilled in doing assessments and in providing intervention. Occupational therapy interventions require input from family, educators, and caregivers. People transition from one setting into another with the help of occupational therapists. In other words, transitions include from home to daycare, from daycare to school, and from school to society. Occupational therapists provide support to families through education and consultation.

    What Is An Occupational Therapy Evaluation

    An occupational therapy evaluation will assess a child’s gross motor, fine motor, visual motor, visual perceptual, handwriting, daily living and sensory processing skills. The use of standardized assessment tools, non-standardized assessment tools, parent interview and clinical observations will be used to assess the child’s performance.

    Researches About Sensory Integration Therapy

    Sensory integration therapy is a clinical based intervention that uses play activities and sensory integration principles to increase adaptive responses of children . In a systematic review research by Benson and Koomar, 27 studies on the impact of sensory integration approach on children were reviewed. Its reported that sensory integration approaches are effective in terms of sensory-motor skills, motor planning, socialization, attention and behavioural regulation, skills related with reading, active participation in plays and personal goal attainment, however, the findings are limited due to small sample size, different practice dosages, therapy duration and result measurements not being appropriate .

    Some studies report that sensory integration therapy does not have a positive impact due to small sample size, short therapy duration, no fidelity measure, study design and due to the fact that assessments are not blinded .

    The last systematic review study by Smith et al. on sensory integration notes that evidence based studies where blinded evaluation, larger samples and randomised trial are used should be conducted .

    Presentation Of A Child With Autism:

    Speech and Occupational Therapy

    According to DSM V, Autism symptoms vary from one end of the spectrum to another.  Thus a child can look withdrawn or on the go.

    Also, sensory processing difficulties contribute to the stereotypical behaviors displayed by the child.

    A child prefers the sameness of routine and gets upset when routines are disturbed. A child can exhibit restricted or fixated interests that vary in intensity.

    Also, a child with Autism may be hypo or hypersensitive to sensory inputs. Clinical observations help a therapist to plan activities in Autism.

    The Role Of Occupational Therapy For Parents Of Children With Autism

    Your childs occupational therapist might recommend that you participate in the therapy with your child. This can be beneficial so that you are on the same page as your child and his/her care provider. Playing an active part in your childs sessions will help you implement the therapy at home.

    Karen Razon, an occupational therapist in Orlando, Florida, explained in her article published in Issue 74 of Autism Parenting Magazine that parents with high-stress levels might benefit from occupational therapy. Razon explains that occupational therapists view an emotionally-overwhelmed parent though a holistic pair of glasses. An occupational therapist can help parents improve their physical, emotional, spiritual, or social wellbeing. Whether it be helping parents find coping mechanisms that fit their family lifestyle, creating weekly routine that schedules spouse-time or alone-time while meeting their childs needs, or searching for local parental support groups, Razon says that occupational therapists can help parents find balance in their life . She suggests asking your childs occupational therapist for advice or a referral to an occupational therapist for yourself. A psychologist might also be an appropriate fit for some parents.

    Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy

    ABA therapists use behavioral principles applied to everyday situations to help a child with ASD either increase or decrease targeted behaviors.  They are trained to help your child progress by assisting your child in learning new skills, shaping and refining previously learned skills or ,and helping your child decrease socially problematic behaviors. They may accomplish this by implementing one or more of the following behavioral techniques:

    • Pivotal Response Training focuses on building up your childs motivation to learn, acknowledge their own behavior, and improving your childs ability to initiate verbal interactions with others.
    • Discrete Trial Training teaches new skills or correct behavior to your child by breaking them down step-by-step. This will allow your child to learn in the simplest manner possible. Rewards are usually given for each correct answer or action in each step.
    • Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention specifically for children with autism under the age of five.
    • Verbal Behavior Intervention aims to help your child learn and develop verbal skills.

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