OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY FOR AUTISM
Why does my child not sleep through the night? Why can my child not sit still for long? Why does he throw such tantrums? Why is my child not pointing? Why does he walk on his toes? Why does he not use the toilet? Why does my son rub himself against the wall? Why does my child like to spin objects? Why does he cover his ears each time the cooker's whistle blows?
An occupational therapist (OT) can help you answer these questions. Children with Autism are known to have sensory and motor challenges. An OTist can help your child overcome some of these challenges.
Sensory issues and sensory integration therapy
A growing baby develops his/her understanding of the world around through the senses of touch, smell, sight, vision, hearing, proprioception, etc. This understanding is the basis on which later language develops. Children with Autism are known to have differences in their sensory development. Auditory hypersensitivity, for example, would mean that the child is easily disturbed by sounds and cannot tolerate the sound of a cooker whistle. On the other hand, auditory hyposensitivity would be the reason why the child does not respond to the call of his name. Sometimes children can fluctuate between hyper and hyposensitivity. This can be extremely confusing for the child and parents. Parents are unable to understand why their child responds so well at some times and at other shows very poor response.
These differences in development are attributed to differences in the manner in which the child’s nervous system is functioning. We call them differences and not deficits as there are certain senses that are heightened and some that are underdeveloped. For example, many individuals with Autism are known to have a keen sense of music, some are good at athletics, while others are visually strong.
Occupational therapy will help the child work through these challenges. Our OTist will work with your child and you to ensure that his/her sensory needs are met. It is important to understand that there is a neurobiological cause for some of your child’s behaviour. Understanding the nature of this cause will also empower you to support your child appropriately.
Assessment of the child’s sensory profile involves observing and interacting with your child, administering a questionnaire to the parents and significant others (if need be).Analysis of these on a standardized questionnaire will help the therapist understand your child better. A variety of sensory equipment such as swings, ball pool and textured massage therapy balls are used in sensory integration therapy.
Motor difficulty in Autism
Children with Autism are also known to have motor challenges. This is the reason why many of them are unable to point to communicate, often leading the parent by the hand to an object of their choice. Difficulty with motor imitation is the reason why many re unable to make the actions for nursery rhymes (even when exposed to the same) or use gestural language to communicate when speech is delayed. Finally, speech is the highest form of motor function; children with motor difficulty would generally have difficulty in speaking as well. A variety of exercises tailor-made to your child’s requirements are used to develop his motor skills.
The OTist also works on the child’s activities of daily living. These are the skills required by the child in his everyday life and include toileting, dressing, eating, etc. Our OTist will coordinate with parents to develop these skills in a home-based program.