WHAT IS ASD?
Autism Spectrum Disorder is classified under the category of Pervasive Development Disorder. It can be mild or severe. Nearly all individuals on the Autism Spectrum will have some disorder or difficulties with the way they process and respond to sensory information. Most also have difficulties impacting social communication whether they are verbal and have language or non verbal. Many also have narrow and or repetitive interests and play skills. These difficulties greatly impact the child’s daily activities and academic progress.
There is not one autism but many types, caused by different combinations of genetic and environmental influences. The term “spectrum” reflects the wide variation in challenges and strengths possessed by each person with autism. Autism’s most-obvious signs tend to appear between 2 and 3 years of age. In some cases, it can be diagnosed as early as 18 months.
HOW CAN OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY HELP?
With our focus on functional daily life, Occupational therapists are ideally positioned to help children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. This may include therapy to improve self care skills such as dressing, toileting, eating, bathing, sleeping, grooming. It may also include interventions to teach and improve social thinking and play skills. Therapy may also work with the family to assist in improving sensory processing.
A great deal of emphasis is given to early intervention, and many of these therapies are used as part of intensive programs in the early years. But they can be beneficial well beyond this period. Until now, many people have not used therapies when older, often because there has been no funding available to help pay for them.
The advent of the NDIS means that each individual’s needs can be addressed, and these therapies can form part of tailor made funding packages to help support their needs and goals.
An occupational therapist who is experienced in working with children on the autism spectrum will commence with a full assessment of the particular issues for that child. Assessment will aim to keep the child calm and regulated, and challenge them progressively throughout. Then a program and SMART goals are worked out in collaboration with the family. This program may include: