Fortunately for parents and families of children with Autism, more doctors and physicians are diagnosing the disease sooner, sometimes as early as 18 to 24 months of age, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. However, even though early intervention is becoming more widespread, there is little known about how to treat the condition.
How Therapy Can Help
Children who have been diagnosed with Autism may not learn the same way as others. They process information differently, which can affect not only their education but their daily lives as well. Children with Autism often struggle to make sense of their world but they can succeed better if they have occupational therapy to help them.
What is Occupational Therapy?
While most students enter the field for the generous occupational therapist salary, most stay in the field because they find the work emotionally rewarding. Therapy sessions help children improve fine motor and life skills like feeding and dressing themselves. A therapist can also help the child to learn social skills needed to interact with others, as well as adaptive behaviors that will help him adjust to new situations and surroundings, particularly when drastic changes in his environment are presented. Occupational therapists see their charges slowly emerge from a life of isolation to one of stronger social connections and greater happiness.
Fine Motor Skills
Children with Autism may be able to feed themselves or hold a pencil, but the motions are often sloppy and inconsistent, thus causing frustration in the child. Overcoming small milestones such as properly tying a shoelace can give an autistic child the confidence boost he needs to help his social skills develop further. Through plenty of positive reinforcement, an occupational therapist will help the autistic child to improve his fine motor skills.
With a delay in fine motor skills comes a potential inability for the autistic child to care for himself. An occupational therapist will show your child how to dress and feed himself, as well as how to properly comb his hair and brush his teeth. As with fine motor skills, once the child accomplishes these tasks successfully, reward and praise are often given as reinforcement.
Even regular appointments with an occupational therapist will help the child with Autism to develop social skills by providing regular, routine interaction with someone outside of his immediately family. A therapy session may consist of developing conversational skills or recognizing non-verbal cues. An occupational therapist will go over how to read facial expressions and other body language signs and gestures by showing the child pictures of moods and asking him to describe the emotions. Sometimes, occupational therapists develop social skills of two autistic children at a time, fostering interaction during regular play and side-by-side conversations.
While many children often struggle when faced with transitions or changes to their normal routines, autistic children find the smallest modifications challenging. This can be anything from moving to a new house, welcoming a new sibling into the family or beginning at a new school. Children with Autism are often very focused and find comfort in similarities and routines. Stability is vital in their lives, so interrupting that stability can often lead to an unstable child. An occupational therapist will use the therapy room and create transitive situations for the child to adjust to. By allowing the autistic child to adjust to small changes gradually, the child builds up self-confidence over time and learns to overcome whatever transitions may come.
Children with Autism are often sensitive to sounds and textures, since their brains tend to scramble signals they receive from the world around them and cause them to react in a seemingly abnormal way. An occupational therapist can work with the autistic child and use techniques such as light brushing to develop the child’s tolerance to what he deems is an unfavorable sensory feeling.
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