Children with autism experience difficulties in the way they process information or interact with those around them, and it’s been shown that different types of occupational therapy benefit autistic children. Occupational therapists can help kids with autism to navigate their environment and to attend to their everyday activities more successfully. Keep reading to find out more about the kinds of interventions and strategies OTs utilize in their work with autistic clients.

Resource: 101 Curricula and Resources for Homeschooling Kids with Autism

About Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapists are experts in human development, particularly with regard to the ways in which people interact with the world around them. They are well-versed in the ways in which an illness, injury or disability can affect normal function. It is their job to apply that knowledge to devise individual plans to help their clients compensate in ways that allow them to independently perform their daily routines. OTs don’t work alone, though. They benefit from the input of teachers, parents and other important figures in the child’s life. Such feedback allows the occupational therapist to create child-specific goals for behavior, academics and social interactions.

Occupational Therapy and Autism

There are a number of ways in which occupation therapy benefit autistic children. Once the therapist has observed the child’s behaviors and received information from those closest to the child, he or she can then develop a treatment plan to specifically work on each of the goals set for the client. Therapists will obviously vary, depending on the goals and needs of the child. However, some types of interventions are common with children on the autism spectrum. For example, play therapy can be used to model appropriate social interaction and communication. Hands-on developmental activities like brushing teeth and hair are often modeled and practiced to help children toward a sense of autonomy and accomplishment regarding his or her daily routine. Adaptive strategies are ones in which compensation of some type is made to assist children in overcoming difficulties. One example may be providing verbal prompts to prepare a child for upcoming transitions. These are just a few activities that have shown to help autistic children to navigate their world.

Benefits of Occupational Therapy for Autism

The goal of occupational therapy when used with autistic populations is to improve the individual’s overall success in all aspects of life. This is accomplished through the teaching and modification of daily life skills which leads to increased independence. Through the teaching and practice of these skills, the hope is that the child will eventually be able to independently accomplish such things as:

  • Focus on academic tasks
  • Maintain reciprocal relationships
  • Engage in cooperative play
  • Manage self-regulation
  • Express emotions appropriately
  • Delay gratification

Related Resource: What Causes Autism?

An occupational therapist can utilize a number of other strategies to teach children with autism to perform daily life tasks more efficiently. The types of occupational therapy that benefit autistic children are vast, and the results can transform lives in ways parents often couldn’t have imagined.