What is Occupational Therapy?
In its simplest terms, occupational therapists help people participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities (occupations). They help people learn new ways to do things required for daily living, like buttoning pants, feeding themselves, and not becoming overwhelmed by different sensory inputs. Occupational therapy helps people be successful in doing what is important to them.
How Does Occupational Therapy Benefit Children?
Occupational therapy can help all children, including children with autism, perform better in school and home environments. Parents who are referred to occupational therapy practitioners often have concerns about the behavioral and social development problems, like picky eating, overly aggressive play, attention issues, sensitivity to sound, light, or touch, that their child displays in these environments and practitioners can assist with these issues.
Understanding Sensory Issues
Although the behavioral and social difficulties can be overtly displayed, many children also have sensory issues that are trickier to detect. “Some of the issues in social interaction and communication, as well as some of the behaviors, are occurring because the child often has sensory processing issues,” says Jane Case-Smith, EdD, OTR/L, FAOTA, professor and director of the Occupational Therapy Division of the School of Allied Medical Professions at Ohio State University. It is estimated that 80% of children with autism have sensory processing problems. This means that they can’t filter out extraneous sensory stimulation or don’t process sensory stimulation in the same way typically developing children do. Occupational therapy practitioners can address sensory issues and equip parents to manage their child’s behavior more successfully.
Problems with sensory processing can explain why some children may not like noise, being touched, or the feel of certain clothing. “Sometimes [parents] are very aware of these behaviors—that the child is rigid, that they won’t eat certain foods or don’t like certain odors—but nobody’s really put it all together for them,” says Case-Smith. Occupational therapy practitioners can clarify the role of sensory processing and provide advice on practical things parents can do, such as placing a weighted vest on a child if he or she needs calming. Occupational therapy practitioners also support positive behavior, aimed to help the child’s social engagement, by imitating the child’s actions, waiting for his or her response, positively responding to the child, and cuing appropriate social interaction to improve social play skills.
What Does Occupational Intervention Involve?
Therapy can involve swings, deep touch, massage, and numerous other methods. Therapy sessions always center on the child, incorporate play, are interactive, and provide activities that require the child to problem solve.
Creating the Intervention Plan
When creating an intervention plan, occupational therapy practitioners evaluate children with autism using observation and parent and teacher reports and also interview parents about their child’s relationships and eating, self-care, and daily living skills.
In setting goals, occupational therapy practitioners work with families and teachers as a team to address the most immediate and important issues. Whether practitioners modify the environment or engage in one-on-one therapy, their efforts serve the goals of the teacher and family. By collaborating with families, teachers, and other service providers, the occupational therapy practitioner strives to support success.
Information taken from Health.utah.edu
& from the American Occupational Therapy Association
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