Autism Spectrum Disorders are neurodevelopmental disorders that impact the communication, social interaction and behavioral skills of the affected individual. This could affect their ability to live an independent life. Occupational Therapy aims to enable individuals with autism to participate in communal life by improving everyday skills with specific focus on play skills, learning strategies, sensory integration and self-care.
Why does a child with autism need Occupational Therapy?
Occupational therapists work with a child with autism to evaluate the areas in which the child needs support and determine the best way to develop, modify, adapt or regain the skills that are challenging for the child. They help the child to increase their independence and improve their ability to take part in daily activities.
How does Occupational Therapy work?
Occupational therapists (OTs) work in tandem with the child’s parents / family, teachers and other therapists to evaluate the sensory, motor, cognitive, social, and communication skills of the child and provide necessary therapy support.
Evaluation of Occupational Therapy
The symptoms shown by a child with autism is unique to that child and could be vastly different from those of another child at the same level in the autism spectrum and could also vary across the lifespan of the child. During the evaluation process, the occupational therapists identify the child’s strengths and abilities as well as his / her needs and challenges. Based on the results of the evaluation, the OT develops intervention goals as well as an intervention plan. This is done along with the child, his / her parents, teachers and other support systems, including siblings and friends.
The primary goal of occupational therapy is to help the child with autism to improve their quality of life and to engage in daily activities. Jewel Autism Centre’s occupational therapy program is among the world’s best occupational programs, which is constantly kept updated and gives emphasis to Sensory Integration Therapy. Our occupational therapy program focuses on evaluation and training of gross motor skills, fine motor skills, cognitive-perceptual skills, pre-writing skills, activities of daily living, social skills, play skills, and sensory integrative dysfunction. The interventions include
- Sensory integration and sensory-based strategies with interventions like brushing of teeth, playing in a ball pit and other activities aimed at helping a child to manage his / her body in space.
- Play and / or leisure participation activities (such as Floor Time) that instruct as well as aid a child in interacting and communicating with others and build intellectual, emotional and physical skills
- Approaches and strategies to promote transition from one setting to another, from one person to another, and from one life phase to another.
Sensory Processing for Occupational Therapy
Sensory processing is the ability of the Human Body to receive information from our seven senses, organise and interpret these information and hence produce a meaningful response towards the received stimuli.
The seven senses are:
Auditory system- it is the ability to process sounds that we hear around us through recognition and interpretation. Auditory processing is defined by how the brain receives, understands and classifies auditory information received by the ears.
- Visual System- it is the ability to process information taken in through the eyes. These include Visual closure, Visual-spatial relationship, figure-ground perception, form and visual discrimination, visual memory, tracking and visual integration.
- Tactile system- also known as somatosensory system is responsible for the senses that we feel on our skin which includes textures, temperatures, pain, itch, pressure, vibratory senses etc.
- Olfactory system- it is the ability to process smell and odors. It is one of the primitive senses that consists of neurons with direct contact with the external world and the brain. It also plays an important aspect in flavour and taste senses as well.
- Gustatory system- it is the ability of the brain to interpret taste senses in the food that we eat. It consists of 5 taste sensations such as sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami. These combine in various formats to give us the perception of flavour.
- Vestibular system- it is the ability of the brain to compute our balance system and spatial orientation sense. It processes the stimuli of movement and equilibrioception. This system is also in control of balance, coordination, eye-movements, attention and gravitational/spacial security.
- Proprioceptive system- it is the ability to understand joint position senses of the body by utilizing the stretch receptors in the muscles. It also includes kinesthesia which is the sensation of joint movement and acceleration as well as motor control and posture.
Other Uses of Occupational Therapy
Occupational Therapy is not confined to treatment for autism. It has proved helpful for people of all ages who have physical, sensory, or cognitive problems. Occupational therapy is used for persons who
- Have birth defects or birth injuries
- Are physically disabled or have physical challenges
- Are recovering from an illness or surgery
- Learning disabilities (like dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia etc)
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
- Have mental health issues and/or behavioral disorders
- Are getting older.