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How Occupational Therapy Helps Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder

July 17, 2018

Pediatric occupational therapists use a variety of different methods and techniques to encourage the skills needed for kids to live their best life. Children with ASD (autism spectrum disorder) sometimes receive occupational therapy to help them learn things necessary to thrive in daily activities, such as bathing, getting dressed, homework and handwriting, and playing and socializing.

Regulating Emotion

One of the most common things a pediatric occupational therapist can work on with your child that has ASD is regulating emotion. Emotional regulation is part of everyday life, and it is critical that all kids learn how to manage their thoughts and feelings and communicate effectively. Often, kids with autism struggle with emotional regulation, as they have a difficult time reading emotions and understanding intense feelings. A pediatric OT has a slew of techniques to help with emotional regulation, including role-play activities, games, and engaging in one-on-one practice.

Everyday Social Skills

Everyday social skills like smiling and saying “hello,” making eye contact and making small talk can be tough for kids with ASD.  Often times, kids with autism have a hard time understanding the “rules” of social interaction and can get frustrated when trying to engage with others. Pediatric occupational therapists can be great teachers and mentors if your child struggles in this area. They use creative ways to help a child understand social norms and communication, and can help make the world seem a little less confusing.

Developing Motor Skills

Motor skills – both gross and fine – are two areas pediatric occupational therapists can help with. Gross motor skills are the large movements we make, such as running, jumping or rolling over. Fine motor skills are the smaller movements we make, such as writing, pinching an object or holding a spoon. Sometimes, kids with ASD have a delay in gross or fine motor skills (or both). A pediatric occupational therapist can help your child build strength, increase endurance and improve efficiency and effectiveness in everyday activities.

Finding the Best Plan for Your Child

Kids with ASD often thrive when living a life full of structure, predictability and routine. A pediatric occupational therapist can come into your home to get a basic understanding of your family schedule and routines. Armed with this knowledge, the therapist can help create a family flow that makes sense for everyone involved, including your kiddo!

The possibilities for a pediatric occupational therapist to help a child on the autism spectrum are endless, and because each child is unique, an individualized approach is always used. Whether your child with autism struggles socially, emotionally, physically or elsewhere, an OT can be a fantastic addition to your treatment team and can help foster long term, permanent change for a happier, healthier life.

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