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How Does Occupational Therapy Help Children Diagnosed with Autism?

By August 23, 2022No Comments

At Bierman Autism Centers many of our children face difficulty effectively receiving, processing and responding to sensory information. Our strong commitment to supporting each and every child that walks through our center doors has led us to incorporate Occupational Therapy (OT) into our services.  OT can help children strengthen skills that are needed in everyday life and can help target skills related to play, school preparation, self-esteem, and daily living.

But you still may be wondering how exactly OT can help a child diagnosed with autism?

Let’s first start with a definition and a little history behind this practice.

Occupation: Any activity one needs to do, wants to do, or is expected to do throughout their day that occupies their time. Participation in our daily occupations gives our lives structure and meaning. When a disease, injury, or diagnosis impacts someone’s ability to engage independently in their daily occupations, OTs are there to help!

OT was developed in 1918 when it was found that injured soldiers who had something to occupy their time during recovery had better outcomes than soldiers who were following traditional methods. This evolved into our current philosophy: Therapy outcomes are improved when interventions are rooted in functional activities that support participation in daily occupations. Therapy should always be relevant to the client and intrinsically motivating. While being embedded in having a practical application. Occupational Therapists help clients diagnosed with autism. We do so by embedding therapy in activities that are motivating for our clients. Here at Bierman Autism Centers – namely through play!

Occupational Therapists are trained in anatomy, physiology, neuroscience, and childhood development. They use this training every day to design their interventions. People with a diagnosis of autism often present with difficulties in fine motor, gross motor, sensory processing, feeding, self-care, and executive functioning. Occupational Therapists will employ a combination of standardized and non-standardized tests to determine what barriers may be present that are impacting function. They then use play-based interventions to address those barriers.

For example, a client who holds their marker in their fist presents with illegible handwriting. An Occupational Therapist might modify their writing utensil and introduce fine motor dexterity toys to support a more mature grasp, which in turn supports writing with precision.

Another client may have difficulty staying upright at the table because of weak postural muscles. The Occupational Therapist could then design an obstacle course targeting balance and core stability.

The goals of Occupational Therapists are to:

  • Improve and enhance the quality of life for individuals and families
  • To introduce, maintain, and improve skills so individuals can be as independent as possible
  • Produce meaningful participation in activities
  • Improve success in all aspects of life through teaching, practice, and modification of skills

How do I know if my child would benefit from occupational therapy services?

Does your child find the following challenging:

Fine motor:

  • Playing with fine motor toys, using a writing utensil, coloring or tracing, using scissors, buttons, zippers, or utensils

Gross motor:

  • Balancing, going up and down stairs, climbing, running, crawling, safely navigating playground equipment

Visual Motor:

  • Spacing and sizing of pictures or letters, completing puzzles, tracking items across their midline, finding objects amongst other objects

Sensory integration:

  • Appear overly sensitive to certain input (sound, touch, smell, movement)
  • Seek sensory input at a higher degree than others (want to spin, jump, and crash into things, ask for deep pressure, enjoy loud noises)
  • Fail to notice certain sensory input (high pain tolerance or inattentive to surroundings)
  • Have difficulty self-calming

Feeding:

  • Have a restrictive diet
  • Only eat certain textures or colors
  • Demonstrate refusal when presented with novel foods

If you answered yes to any of the above, or if you have any other questions please do not hesitate to reach out- we would love to hear from you!  start@biermanautism.com

 

References:

https://www.peiot.org/society/society-history-of-ot

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/occupation