Autism is a developmental disorder — typically diagnosed around age 3 years — that affects brain function, specifically those areas that control social behaviors and communication skills.  The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development uses the term autism spectrum disorders to refer to a group of disorders that include autistic disorder, Asperger’s syndrome, and pervasive developmental disorders not otherwise specified.

People with autism often lack some of the basic social and personal skills required for independent living.  Children who present behaviors on the autism spectrum benefit from from Occupational Therapy in a variety of areas.  These may include:

  • Evaluation of a child to determine whether he has accomplished appropriate skills needed in such areas as grooming, play, and school skills.
  • Interventions to help a child appropriately respond to information coming through the senses.  Activities aimed at helping a child better manage his/her body are instrumental in building competence.
  • Play activities that instruct as well as aid a child in interacting and communicating with others.   A wealth of therapeutic techniques are available to an Occupational Therapist to engage and promote appropriate communication skills.
  • Strategies to help the child transition from one setting to another, and even from one person to another.  For a child on the autism spectrum, this  involves functional techniques for managing transition from home to school, play, or other settings.
  • Adaptive techniques to circumvent challenges, such as providing tactile activities to manage frustration, oral-motor activities to increase regulation, and/or deep pressure activities to promote calm.