Autism is a developmental disorder that is defined by behavioural characteristics. Some of the main features seen in people with autism are difficulties in communication, inability to play or socialize, interact with others, etc. People with autism also display sensory processing or sensory integration dysfunction, which affect their adaptive behaviour and participation in daily activities.
Due to sensory integration dysfunction, people with autism display behaviours that hinder their normal participation in daily life. They are assigned occupational therapy practices to minimize the difficulties they experience in undertaking the daily activities at home and at school and to maximize their independence.
Occupational therapists believe that with the help of meaningful and purposeful activities, individuals with autism can be treated to increase their involvement in community participation. These therapists work with the parents, teachers and caretakers to set specific goals for enhanced social interaction and classroom performance.
Some of the occupation areas that are treated with occupational therapy are:
• Activities of Daily Living (to take care of oneself)
• Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (caring for self and others)
• Education Skill (both formal and informal education)
• Social Participation
• Sound Sleep
Various occupational therapy interventions are designed according to the tests and skilled observations. These evaluations provide considerable help to therapists dealing with the problems faced by people with autism and their families in their daily life. Some of the standardized assessment tests applied in occupational therapy interventions are for sensory integration therapy, speech therapy, play therapy, social skills training, behavioural therapy, cognitive skill, etc.
For occupational therapy, the therapist observes how the child interacts with his/her environment. Some of the areas scrutinized by the therapist before undergoing the therapy are:
• The attention span and stamina
• Reaction to a sudden change or an activity
• Play skills
• Responses to touch
• Posture, balance, or handling (picking or throwing) of objects
• Violence, and or other types of behaviours
• Interaction between the parent and the child
Occupational therapy to help a person with autism spectrum disorder
Early intervention and treatment can help the child recover or organize the essential skills to carry out his/her daily activities with ease. After the essential tests, the occupational therapist develops a well-planned program for the child. This ideal treatment program along with individualized care and understanding works best in treating various conditions.
Occupational therapy combines a variety of strategies that can help a child with autism to respond better to his/her environment. These strategies and activities include:
• Physical activities, such as arranging blocks and stringing beads help the child to develop coordination between limbs (hands) and body awareness
• Play activity is an essential part of the therapy which helps in developing interaction and communication skills
• Activities like brushing teeth, buttoning or combing hair help to enhance developmental skill
Thus, the overall goal of occupational therapy is to improve the quality of life of a child with autism at home and in school. The occupational therapist helps to improve various skills so that children with autism live active and progressive lives.
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