You’re probably already come across autism spectrum disorder at some point in your life. Perhaps you’ve read about it in an article, or maybe you know someone on the spectrum. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurological disorder that gives people a hard time socialising and communicating. People with autism spectrum disorder also tend to have strong fixations and repetitive behaviour.
Although it can be very challenging for some, early intervention and therapy can help individuals with ASD live healthy and fulfilling lives. With all the different types of care that are available today, people on the autism spectrum have so many options when it comes to improving their quality of life and developing their capacity to live independently. Of these, autism occupational therapy has stood out as one of the pillars of modern care.
What is Autism Occupational Therapy?
Occupational Therapy (OT) for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) focuses on building a person’s ability to live independently. Developing a variety of life skills in the person receiving treatment is what occupational therapy aims to achieve.
How Does Autism Occupational Therapy Work?
For individuals with autism spectrum disorder, therapy will focus on developing communication, social skills, and competencies in activities of daily living. Basic sensory and motor capabilities are also given a lot of attention.
The process typically involves an assessment of the person’s proficiency in various categories. Based on the results, an occupational therapist will create a personalised therapy plan to address their specific needs and goals. The plan may include interventions such as sensory integration therapy, play therapy, and functional life skills training.
The goals and activities of autism occupational therapy can include:
- Improving communication and socialisation skills: This can include practise in conversation, cooperation, and social cues
- Working on sensory processing management: Occupational therapists give training to help the person avoid getting overwhelmed by highly-stimulating situations
- Practise for gross and fine motor skills as well as balance: All sorts of things from handling cooking utensils to balance and posture are practised
- Capacity for self-care and daily living: The person is given guidance about how to cook, clean, bathe, shop for groceries, do their laundry, and even manage their money
- Cognitive training and academic success: An occupational therapist might help the person work on their problem-solving, self-control, focus, and memory
Benefits of Autism Occupational Therapy
There is strong evidence to support how effective occupational therapy can be when it comes to helping people on the autism spectrum live more independently. Occupational therapy can help people develop their communication skills and work on their adaptive behaviour. With the help of an occupational therapist, people with ASD can work on their sensory input management and improve their capacity to take care of themselves.
After occupational therapy, many people with autism spectrum disorder have better eye contact, turn-taking, and social cue recognition. Occupational therapists can also help with fine motor skill development, which can be useful for writing, eating, and using smaller objects. Individuals with ASD can become better at dressing, grooming, and toileting by themselves by working with occupational therapy professionals.
The Occupational Therapy Team
You will want to work with a licensed occupational therapist that has experience working with people on the autism spectrum. Parents and caregivers also play an active role in occupational therapy by giving feedback on the individual’s progress and providing input for therapeutic strategies.
Speech therapists, behaviour analysts, and child psychiatrists may also work with patients, their families, and occupational therapists for a more collaborative approach to occupational therapy. As research in the field continues to advance, new interventions and approaches to treatment will continue to emerge.
Occupational Therapy for Autism Spectrum Disorder
At the end of the day, autism occupational therapy is all about empowerment. Occupational therapists help people live with the best quality of life possible and on as much of their own terms as they can.
When it comes to success, a team-based approach that includes cooperation between the individual, their family, and the occupational therapist is essential. With persistence and consistency, people with ASD can work to increase their capacity for independent living with the help of occupational therapy.
What age range is appropriate for autism occupational therapy services?
Occupational therapy services for people with autism can be provided to individuals of all ages. There is a misconception that therapy is not beneficial for adults. Although the approaches may be a bit different from those for children, occupational therapists can be of great assistance in helping adults on the spectrum increase their independence and improve their quality of life.
Does insurance cover autism occupational therapy services?
Many insurance plans do cover autism occupational therapy. The NDIS may also provide assistance when it comes to covering the services of an occupational therapist. It is best to check with your specific insurance provider as well as with your local health centre if you would like to inquire about coverage or payment.
How do I find a qualified autism occupational therapy provider?
Your healthcare provider may be able to refer you to an occupational therapy professional. Local centres or other organisations such as the NDIS may also be of assistance. Finding a provider that has experience working with persons on the autism spectrum would be very good.