How Occupational Therapy Helps the Autistic Child

Children are assessed in terms of age-appropriate life tasks. Occupational Therapy addresses areas that interfere with the child's ability to function in such life tasks. O.T. may be provided to children in the form of play activities which are used to enhance or maintain play, self-help and school-readiness skills. O.T. consultation is warranted when functioning in these areas is significantly compromised.

Occupational Therapy benefits a child with autism by attempting to improve the quality of life for the individual through successful and meaningful experiences. This may be accomplished through the maintenance, improvement, or introduction of skills necessary for the child to participate as independently as possible in meaningful life activities. Such skills include coping skills, fine motor skills, self-help skills, socialization and play skills.

Occupational Therapists use a variety of theories and treatment approaches when providing services. Such approaches may include: developmental theories, learning theory, model of occupational performance, sensory integration, play theories and others. The choice of therapeutic methods depends upon the specific needs of the individual child and the Occupational Therapist's background. Many O.T.'s choose to employ a combination of approaches to meet those specific needs.

Occupational Therapy plays an important role in overall program planning as a member of the interdisciplinary team providing consultation or direct services. Areas of focus include: posture and movement, bilateral skills, fine motor skills, preschool / school skills, self-help skills and sensory issues. O.T.s work with other team members to assist the individual child to maximize his or her potential in a meaningful and satisfying way.