A Month of Awareness: Autism and Occupational Therapy Month
April is a very important month for a few reasons
it’s Autism awareness month as well as occupational therapy month!
I wanted to take a little look into Autism spectrum disorder and how exactly occupational therapy helps these individuals in honor of this being their special month.
What is Autism?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication. Since Autism is a spectrum disorder each individual has their own set of strengths and challenges, they can range from high functioning to severely challenged. Some may require significant assistance while others may be more independent and in some cases living on their own completely.
Signs of Autism can often be seen around the ages of 2-3 years old and early intervention has shown positive outcomes later in life.
Occupational Therapy's Role with Autism
The individual will be evaluated on their level of ability in
- Caring for themselves
- Interacting with their environment
From the evaluation the therapist will identify problem areas and develop goals that may work on skills such as
- Independent dressing
- Using the bathroom
- Fine motor skills like writing, coloring, and cutting with scissors.
Autism in the schools
Working in the school system I treat a good amount of kiddos diagnosed with ASD and none of them are alike. I have some who are in general education classes just needing help with handwriting or managing some mild sensory issues, and then some of mine are nonverbal using communication devices or picture symbols to communicate their needs. The major thing to remember is that having a diagnosis doesn’t put someone in a bubble with every other person with ASD. Each child has to be treated individually, know what calms them, what triggers them, and what makes them happy. Use that to your advantage when it comes to making treatments. It’s very common that Children with Autism fixate on certain things, commonly trains and dinosaurs. Creating activities that involve these make my treatments go by way better and the kids have fun!
A lot of my parents will say that they struggle with feeling disconnected from their child. Social issues are extremely common and for me as a therapist finding a connection with each child is important. My advice for this is to find what brings them joy, no matter how odd it may seem, and use it to connect. Trying to force a child with autism to be “typical” will only cause frustration, they are unique and celebrating that while working on the functional skills for life is what occupational therapy is about!
There is not one type of Autism, but many.
Facebook: autism and therapy resources
The Specially Gifted Parent Resource Community Group was created to be a safe space for parents, caregivers, therapists, etc. to befriend and engage with others in this community. In this Facebook Group we want to grow friendships, share ideas, exchange resources, and just support one another because as you know, it takes a village! This is a private group that can be found on our Facebook page, and the only way to have access to the Therapy Thursday Facebook Lives with our therapists. Therefore, make sure to join the group to tune into Therapy Thursday by clicking this link here.
After joining you will find two helpful videos by Ashley Elrod, OTA and Emily Gantt, M.Ed., CCC-SLP. Ashley’s video explains therapy services offered in the school systems and Emily’s covers questions regarding early signs that speech therapy intervention is needed, how to get started, how to detect early signs of Autism, etc! They both also answered questions from parents tuning in.
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