5 Ways Occupational Therapy Can Improve an Autistic Child’s Quality of Life

  • April 25, 2014

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Pediatric occupational therapy (OT) can greatly improve the lives of children suffering from autism. Occupational therapists can help kids wherever they are on the autism spectrum. Here are five ways that OT can help improve an autistic child’s quality of life.

#1. OT Helps Kids Live Their Lives

One of the main differences between OT and standard physical therapy (PT) is that OT is holistic. Therapists study the whole child including all of their systems, not just the physical system. They study the nervous system, the muscles, the cognition and the social skills. OT means things that occupy a person’s time. For kids, that includes the ability to bathe, dress, walk, talk and go to school. Therefore, the biggest benefit of OT is the way that it helps kids live their lives and become more independent.

#2. Help Them Feel More Balanced

OT takes place in specially equipped rooms with play equipment such as beanbags, playhouses and swings. The OT therapist will let a child play and explore. If the child chose to play on the swing, the therapist would play with them and experiment with different ways the swing can move. In an OT therapy setting, swinging can help children on the spectrum feel more balanced.

#3. Improve Concentration

The swing in a typical OT therapy setting can help soothe a child and improve their concentration. Swings move in a linear fashion and are one of the go-to pieces of equipment. Autistic children love vestibular stimulation – the sense of balance in the inner ear – and are greatly comforted by being on a swing. The rocking motion helps them to move. This increases their concentration.

#4. Improves Proprioception

Many autistic kids will be averse to using moving apparatus such as the swing at first. They still need to use it to get past their fear of movement. Proprioception is the information from joints, muscles and connective tissues that lead to bodily awareness. Many children on the spectrum lack this awareness. OT therapists will help them develop it through work on a swing or on a trampoline. One useful technique is having the kid bounce and then crash onto a soft mat. This helps improve their proprioception.

#5. Helps Develop Social Skills

In an OT therapy setting, every piece of equipment is an opportunity for imaginative play. Ball pools are key features of most therapy rooms. Hundreds of multicolored balls improve kids’ tactile awareness. Kids can bury themselves in the ball pool and interact with the therapist to improve their social skills. For example, a therapist may begin by asking the kid to find a certain color ball. This might develop into imaginative play and the balls may become certain types of fish that the child can find. This imaginative play helps kids on the spectrum to develop social skills, thinking and problem solving.

Conclusion

These five benefits of occupational therapy in CT should help the parents of any autistic child understand the nature of this type of therapy. What do you think of our tips? What did we miss? Leave us a question or comment below!

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