Most parents of kids with autism constantly ask themselves, “Am I doing enough to help my child?” And yet, thousands agree on a specific type of therapy that they feel has helped their child most: occupational therapy. We’ve asked over 40,000 parents of kids with autism on MyAutismTeam “What therapies, if any, work best for your child?” Out of all responses, the number one answer was occupational therapy (OT).
When we explored this area more with our parents to find out why OT was so useful, and how to pick the right OT for your child, two tips surfaced:
Tip 1: Finding an OT Trained in Sensory Processing Disorder or Sensory Integration Can Make a Huge Difference for Your Child
Useful skills for sensory overload
“Five minutes with [our OT trained in Sensory Integration] and we had a wealth of information on techniques for calming [when overstimulated], ideas for a sensory diet [that helps prevent sensory overload], and tools for managing crises. [For each skill] our OT provided us with a hands-on demonstration for how to work with our child [so that we could do it ourselves].”
The “sensory diet” can be incorporated into the school setting
“Our OT not only explained the sensory issues our son had, but she [also] gave us strategies [and a written 'sensory diet'] so that he can be as independent as possible. A lot of the activities in his sensory diet can be incorporated into his daily routines. His school also has a copy, and his IEP states that he can be given sensory breaks when needed.”
Sensory issues impact all areas of day-to-day living
“Both outside and school occupational therapy have helped our now 14 year old son [with everything from] being able to be hugged, to touching food with his fingers, [avoiding] hand cramps from being so forceful when using a pencil,…wiping his mouth with a napkin, [and] putting his face under the shower water.”
Tip 2: Partner with Your OT and Reinforce the Goals at Home
“Even the greatest OT needs help and support from the family. Take what the OT teaches and then add skills done at home to reinforce the goal of your child living [independently] in society.”
“You know a great OT when they have a one-on-one with you and they take what you say into the therapy room. They let you see what they are doing and they give you homework! OT has to be done at home by you! It doesn’t start and stop with the therapist.”
“Our OT never made our family feel like we were not doing things right, and she was super supportive in finding answers to the questions we had. She really listened to what we thought his major challenges were and we worked together from there.”
Warm Reception from OT’s
Last week we shared these results with OT’s who specialize in autism at the American Occupational Therapy Association‘s Annual Conference in San Diego. They were thrilled to see the response to OT by parents in the autism community and genuinely hungry to hear the parent perspectives and anecdotes about autism and OT. We were swamped with questions following the talk and really moved by the passion of the OT community to make a difference in the lives of individuals with autism.
If you already have an OT that you and your child love, please be sure to add them to your team on MyAutismTeam.com, today. If you’re looking for an OT, follow the tips above and start your search by connecting with parents on MyAutismTeam near you to see which OT’s they are using.
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More information on Occupational Therapy
Occupational therapists (OT’s) and Occupational Therapist Assistants (OTA’s) help individuals with autism gain independence and participate more fully in life by integrating cognitive, physical and motor skills.
These skills might include:
- Daily living skills (dressing, grooming, going to the bathroom)
- Fine motor skills (writing and cutting with scissors)
- Gross motor skills
- Playing, coping, sharing, self-regulation, and social skills
By definition, occupational therapy is tailored to the specific developmental needs of the child – and the will evolve as the the child turns into an adolescent and an adult.
Other good reads:
The Autism Speaks 100 Day Kit has a primer on OT and other therapies that is quite useful.
“What to Ask of an Occupational Therapist” – from The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism offers more information on sensory diets and everything else your OT can help you with.