How Occupational Therapy Can Help Your Autistic Child
Occupational Therapy is a form of developmental therapy for children or adults that aims to develop, improve, and maintain their day-to-day capacity for every day tasks. It addresses specific deficits or gaps varying from person to person, and can cover a wide range of activities from fine and gross motor skills to self-care skills to handwriting skills.
Children and individuals across a variety of support or developmental needs can benefit from Occupational Therapy, including those with Autism, Global Developmental Delay (GDD), or Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD).
For autistic children in particular, Occupational Therapy can address and teach coping mechanisms for their unique support needs such as sensory processing and stimuli difficulties or gaps in emotional self-regulation.
1. Sensory Processing & Emotional Self-Regulation Education
Sensory processing disorders are common amongst autistic children and can deeply affect their everyday development as well as cause them undue distress and anxiety.
Occupational Therapy can help address sensory processing issues through treatments such as sensory integration therapy. These treatments identify the specific ways a child is processing sensory stimuli, and teach targeted coping and self-regulation skills to help them avoid or cope with sensory overload in their day-to-day lives.
This could take the form of a ‘sensory diet’ where the occupational therapist designs a tailored day-to-day activity plan with varying sensory activities. These activities work to stimulate or relax the child’s sensory processing throughout the day, resulting in a balanced sensory response. Over time, this helps the child identify potential triggers for sensory overload as well as improve their self-regulation strategies.
2. Self-Care Skills Training
Another important benefit of Occupational Therapy for autistic children is improving their self-help skills such as brushing teeth, dressing, drinking from open cups, or brushing their hair. Executive dysfunction, sensory processing issues, or gaps in gross or fine motor skills may all make such tasks extremely difficult for autistic children.
An occupational therapist will be able to recommend adaptations, modifications, or routine adjustments to help them carry out these tasks in an independent and fulfilling manner. This might mean seeking out specialised adaptive equipment, creating visual schedules to impart a sense of routine and expectation, or working on higher-level cognitive skills to improve executive function.
3. Social & Play Skills Training
Occupational Therapy helps children bridge gaps in all facets of their day-to-day lives – and this includes play! Playing and experiencing social interaction with others is a crucial part of a young child’s development. However autistic children may face difficulties with shared play skills such as not understanding social cues or the rules of shared play, having poorer motor coordination, or having a strong preference for playing alone.
Through occupational therapy, an autistic child can learn how to improve their emotional self-regulation, eye contact, communication skills, and more – all of which can help them feel more comfortable with joining in play activities with their peers. A skilled occupational therapist will also be able to help an autistic child better understand the social rules around them so that they feel less anxiety and have better coping strategies when entering new or unfamiliar social situations.
Support your Autistic Child with MindChamps Allied Care
Though autistic children may experience difficulties with day-to-day activities in their early years, early diagnosis and intervention can help them thrive. MindChamps Allied Care offers Occupational Therapy and Early Intervention Programmes (EIP) to help your autistic child lead independent and self-sufficient lives.
We understand that the unique ways in which autistic children navigate the world around them can be both a strength and a disadvantage, and our trained therapists and childhood development specialists are always striving to help your child identify their strengths and weaknesses so that they feel more confident going through life.