Diane Gubisch, Ph.D., OTR/L, ADHD-CCSP, ASD-Clinical Specialist
If your child has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), you might wonder what treatments can help them. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating ASD, occupational therapy can be a helpful form of treatment for many children on the autism spectrum. Here are four ways that occupational therapy can help children with ASD:
- Emotional Regulation
One of the hallmark symptoms of ASD is difficulty regulating emotions. This can manifest itself in tantrums, meltdowns, or outbursts. Occupational therapists can help children on the autism spectrum learn to regulate their emotions through various methods, such as breathing exercises, Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR), and sensory integration activities. These techniques can help children on the autism spectrum cope with overwhelming emotions and prevent meltdowns before they happen.
- Family Harmony
ASD can be hard for the child and the whole family. Parenting a child with ASD can be stressful, and sibling relationships can be strained. That’s why one of the goals of occupational therapy is to help increase family harmony. Sessions are typically structured around therapeutic goals, and the therapist will set up an environment that offers choices of activities that will ultimately lead toward achieving the goal. For example, if the goal is to improve communication within the family, the therapist might choose activities that focus on nonverbal communication or turn-taking. Hopefully, by working on these skills in therapy, parents will see an improvement in their child’s behavior at home.
- School Success
Another goal of occupational therapy is to help children with ASD succeed in school. Many children on the autism spectrum have difficulty with executive functioning skills such as organization, time management, and flexibility. These skills are essential for academic success but can be hard for children on the autism spectrum to learn. An occupational therapist can teach these skills through various methods, such as visual supports and task analysis (breaking down a task into smaller steps). By helping children with ASD develop these essential skills, occupational therapists can set them up for success in school and beyond.
- Maximizing Strengths
While many challenges come along with ASD, there are also many strengths! One of the goals of occupational therapy is to help individuals with ASD maximize their strengths so they can live meaningful and fulfilling lives. Therapists will often use person-centered planning when working with individuals with ASD to tailor treatment plans to each individual’s unique strengths and interests. By taking a strengths-based approach, occupational therapists can help individuals with ASD find success in all areas of their lives.
While every child on the autism spectrum is unique and will require different interventions, occupational therapy can be a helpful treatment for many children on the spectrum. Call us for a free consultation if you think your child could benefit from occupational therapy.