The best thing you can do as a parent, is continually collaborate with your child's occupational therapist and follow the specific plan the therapist sets out for your child. Most occupational therapists employ a method of sensory integration with prescribed sensory diets where, depending upon the nature of the child, therapists use certain stimuli at certain points with a child to develop associated skills.
For instance, if a therapist is working on a child's academic skills such as reading and handwriting, a parent would typically help the therapist along by reading a book to their child or helping their child with writing letters.
Other than just collaborating with the therapist, it is also important for a parent to monitor the child's development and aid in the process of finding out what kinds of methods and treatments work for the child rather than just sticking to one. This would also help a therapist streamline her/his treatment to suit a specific child.
Normally, occupational therapy can be found in most specialty hospitals dealing with autism, as well as special schools. Our exhaustive database can be referred to for a list of occupation therapists, sorted by country, state, and city.
Nowadays, it has become a lot easier to gain access to occupational therapists since occupational therapy has become a more well-known and standard way of treating children on the autism spectrum.
As stated earlier, most schools around the world are normally affiliated with an occupational therapist who is aware of the way a specific school works, and can help in framing the curriculum for children on the autism spectrum. Other than the therapists provided by a school, there are plenty of occupational therapists associated with hospitals. A pediatrician can also help parents find a suitable occupational therapist for their child, one who is either associated with the hospital or with her/his own practice.
It must also be kept in mind to always check up on an occupational therapist before starting therapy for a child! Even while surfing the internet for therapists, the credentials of a therapist should be authentic before considering that occupational therapist for a child. For convenience, our website has an extensive database of well-reputed occupational therapists from various countries, states, and cities.
Finally, occupational therapy intervention includes Sensory Integration therapy and development of age appropriate skills for Activities of Daily Living. Work and play forms the basis for further treatments, training and appropriate functioning alongside development. Children on the autism spectrum may benefit from occupational therapy, both at home and at school.
If this is done, children will themselves find ways to relieve themselves and make themselves feel better and easier in situations that cause them worry.
Occupation therapy works best when given to a child from a young age. This is because the Sensory Integration activities and strategies are the foundation on which the child's future learning abilities and normal functioning depend on, as sensory integration and modulation deficits have been identified as the root cause to all other problem areas associated with the autism spectrum.
As the years go by, accommodation may be less required and the individual may consciously learn and apply ways of dealing with sensory distress and challenges. It is best to provide occupational therapy and training during the early ages and then slowly wean off, thus maximizing independent functioning during the later ages of life. The goal is to help them maximize their level of independence and lead more meaningful lives. Most studies have shown that the sooner one starts occupational therapy, the faster one's recovery.
Kids mostly start showing symptoms of autism when they become a little older and start kindergarten; they normally tend to have problems with school readiness. Most schools do have affiliated occupational therapists who are already aware of the specifics of that school, and so most children seek occupational therapy through their school in order to work on their school readiness. These therapists also typically help schools design a curriculum suited for a child with autism.
Occupational therapy is never a cookie-cutter approach to alleviating symptoms of autism, and consequently, the frequency of getting occupational therapy depends on each child as well as each therapist.
Sometimes, it works wonders on a specific child to the extent that even after a year of therapy, the children show remarkable improvement in their social, motor, sensory, communication, and emotional responses. Other times, children adapt more slowly to the therapy and often, therapists need to continue making slight modifications to their approach in order to help treat a particular child.
The only method of helping speed up the treatment is to listen to one's occupational therapist and follow everything s/he has instructed. It's important for children to try to realise and to work hard and practice on their own. Some activities or exercises may seem weird to you, but they all have a purpose.
Overall, the celerity of the occupational therapy depends entirely on the child's progress, as well as the therapist. In some occasions, a change in lifestyle may also make an older child who has learned to control the symptoms of ASD uncomfortable, and lead her/him to seek occupational therapy.
Occupational therapy involves the analysis of the child's functional or adaptive ability at home, school, and in other environments. It includes assessing a child's motor skills, perception and sensory processing, and providing treatment and/or recommendations to address the issues.
Occupational Therapy interventions entail:
independent living skills training and modifications
motor development and motor planning skill development
sensory integration and sensory-based strategies
positive mental health strategies
social emotional development and self-regulation strategies and programs
behavioral approaches, in collaboration with team members to support participation
peer group and peer-mediated strategies
social participation activities
play and/or leisure participation activities
cognitive-behavioral approaches that support positive behaviors
visual supports such as schedules, timers, etc.
technology recommendations in education and work activities
strategies to support personal responsibility and self-advocacy skills
approaches and strategies to promote transition to adulthood
work readiness skill development
Your child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) may have a wide variety of issues for which an occupational therapist can provide support including:
Routine self- care activities such as eating or feeding issues.
Difficulties in dressing, including tying shoelaces, buttoning.
Managing sensory-based behaviors including sensitivity to noise or touch, or self-stimulatory behaviors, for example, hand flapping including "meltdowns" triggered by over-stimulation for which calming routines may be developed.
Using a pencil, spoon, scissors or other motor skills.
Following group instructions.
Delayed social skills with symptoms such as avoiding eye contact, having difficulties in making friends, exhibiting physical or aggressive behaviour towards other children and delayed or reduced verbal communication.
Delayed motor skills having challenges such as falling or clumsy behaviour, showing difficulty throwing and catching, having reduced hand eye coordination, and avoiding climbing and jumping activities.
An OT with experience and training in this area can help put together a sensory diet—a plan for sensory input at various times throughout the day to assist in the regulation of optimum levels of alertness.
If your child has difficulties in self care skills, gross and fine motor skills, sensory processing skills, academic skills, emotional regulation, or social skills, Occupational Therapy would be advisable for your child.
No two children are the same and different children often adopt different paces at developing some skills. However, there are some common signs and symptoms that, if allowed to persist for a long time, might translate into your child having a slight disability and requiring occupational therapy.
Some of these signs and symptoms include falling behind at school, daycare, or kindergarten due to difficulties with aspects such as gripping a pencil, letter formation (tendency to reverse very often), difficulty holding and using a pair of scissors, difficulties maintaining concentration and devoting attention to a single source. There is also some noticeable difficulty performing self care tasks such as in using cutlery at meal times, dressing themselves i.e. unable to use buttons or zippers or putting on clothes back to front, difficulty with tying shoelaces, and decreased independence with using the toilet or becoming potty-trained.
More specifically, children with Autism Spectrum Disorders also exhibit symptoms associated with difficulties in sensory regulation such as having a tendency to cover their ears when there is any noise, overreacting to some sensations such as touch, smell, or light, and being extremely fussy eaters. Emotional regulation difficulties also include signs such as crying and becoming overly emotional for no apparent reason, having excessive meltdowns and throwing tantrums, showing some difficulty calming down when a meltdown occurs.
Delayed social skills also present symptoms such as avoiding eye contact, having challenges making friends, exhibiting physical or aggressive behaviour towards other children and delayed or reduced verbal communication. Delayed motor skills have symptoms such as falling or clumsy behaviour, showing difficulty throwing and catching, having reduced hand eye coordination, and avoiding climbing and jumping activities.
Occupational therapy essentially means assisting people of any age group, that are disabled either cognitively or physically, to achieve their full potential in doing age appropriate 'jobs'. For a child with Autism, this means, doing child things; being able to learn, play, interact with peers, maintain self care and hygiene, etc.
The NYU Steinhardt Department of Occupational Therapy has defined it as "a health profession whose goal is to help people achieve independence, meaning and satisfaction in all aspects of their lives." Similarly, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) states it as a "skilled treatment that helps individuals achieve independence in all facets of their lives." It is an extremely multi-faceted process which is determined by a therapist to best suit a specific individual.
Occupational therapy (OT) helps people participate in day-to-day activities, by providing services to children and families within their homes, a clinic, kindergarten, school or a community setting. Your Occupational therapist may alter tasks so that your child can participate fully in all his/her activities, such as providing built up utensils so that the child can eat independently.
They may also adjust surroundings to better suit your child, such as altering your child's seating device used at school during fine motor activities or academics. Your occupational therapist may suggest various strategies so that your child participates optimally in different environments.
They work with children, their parents or caregivers and even with the teachers to increase the child's capacity to participate in all of the daily play, self care, mobility and social experiences available to them. OTs help build skills so that children can manage daily tasks to their best capabilities.
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