Occupational Therapy: a Breakthrough for Independent Living in Autism

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Autism is prevalent neurodevelopmental developmental disorders characterized by core deficits in areas such as communication, social interaction, and restricted or repetitive stereotyped patterns of behaviors. These impairments are variable in range and in severity that affect the developmental skills in children.

The exact cause of autism and its symptoms is still not known. According to research, a multi-factorial strong genetic base and various environmental factors have been indicated as possible causative agents for autism in children. It is important to visit a doctor for diagnosis when parents mark impairments in communication and social interaction along with the presence of repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behaviors, lack of interests as the child approaches the age of 3.

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Research has proved that early diagnosis in collaboration with effective therapies, such as occupational therapy, is an early behavioral intervention for improving functional development. Occupational therapy focuses on developing language, social approach, and appropriate behaviors. The goal is to improve the everyday skills of children with autism, help them to become independent and make them confident enough to participate in various activities. For children, occupational therapy for autism is programmed to evolve better play skills, self-care skills, and learning efficiency. It also helps to treat common sensory issues of autism.

Occupational Therapists

Occupational therapists work to stimulate and develop skills needed for improved functioning at home, school and in a social environment. The program promotes:

  • Understanding
  • Confidence
  • Independence
  • Improved social & communication ability

Occupational Therapy Approach

Occupational therapy for autism is a holistic approach that evaluates the physical, emotional, social, sensory and cognitive abilities of each participant. Accordingly, the therapists create an individualized plan to treat the areas of delays. They create strategies with a set goal to work on key skills such as independent dressing, combing hair, using the bathroom when the need arises, gaining gross and fine motor skills, and better focus. Thus, occupational therapists play a vital role to assess and target the disorders, remove the barriers and help the children become more focused on what they do to help them function better in their daily activities.

Sensory processing problems, detected in children with autism, affect the sense of hearing, vision, touch, smell and taste which causes them to be either over- or under-responsive to the problems they face. They are unable to process or interpret the information received by the brain and faces many challenges or failures in performing everyday tasks including motor co-ordination behavioral issue, and depression. Occupational therapists provide the right filters and interventions that are aimed at targeting each sensory disorder and to help children to be organized in their performance.

Sensory activities are strategies designed to revive the diminished or lost senses essential to communicate pleasantly with elders and other children. The occupational therapy sessions for children with autism are a great way to encourage them and understand the importance of the tasks essential for independent living. The therapy sessions include:

  1. Actions like spinning, swinging, skipping or bouncing on a gym ball stimulate the nervous system
  2. Activities such as log rolling, catching objects and balancing on board to help the body and the brain to work in mutual coordination
  3. Exercises such as push-ups, deep pressures and muscle work using lightweight provide body awareness, self-regulate sensory input, and a sense of calmness.
  4. Play activities in groups help in building communication skills and diminish the sensory issue towards the touch.
  5. These simple strategies can be done even at home to introduce the required sensory filters.

Occupational therapy for autism is a sure way to improve communication, social and motor skills. Children who indulge in this therapy have also exhibited reduces anxiety, enhanced focus and increases cognitive skills. They grow strong enough to thrive and achieve what they desire in this overwhelming environment.    

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