If you have a child with autism, you may have heard of occupational therapy and its potential benefits. However, you may wonder what occupational therapy is and how it can help your child or teenager experiencing neurodiversity.
Occupational therapy (OT) is a powerful tool available to parents looking to provide comprehensive care and meet the specific needs of their incredible child or teenager on the spectrum. Best of all, in many cases, it can complement ABA therapy, also called Applied Behavior Analysis, leading to more impactful outcomes for this growing population needing support in social skills and communication, which both approaches uniquely address, among other skill sets.
In many cases, occupational therapy is covered by insurance if deemed necessary. According to the American Occupational Therapy Association, occupational therapy supports individuals in doing things that are meaningful to them and necessary for daily life. OT interventions utilize everyday routines to enhance clients’ participation in their lives and environment while promoting activities that improve overall health and well-being.
Occupational therapy can help support many significant aspects of life on the spectrum, including self-care, employment, attending school, or improving skills for greater autonomy now and later. Additionally, occupational therapists play a pivotal role in helping individuals on the spectrum manage their sensory processing differences, according to The National Autistic Association.
In this guide by ABA Centers of Pennsylvania, we will outline what occupational therapy is and its role in helping children with autism. Furthermore, we included tips for successful implementation to improve your outcomes with occupational therapy for autism.
We hope this guide serves and empowers you in making more informed decisions about your neurodivergent child’s occupational therapy journey and supports them in having a more terrific future.
Click here for more information about ABA therapy with ABA Centers of Pennsylvania.
What Is Occupational Therapy? How Does It Support Autism?
According to the CDC, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental condition that often complicates communication, social skills, and behavior in those affected. Today, according to the most recent statistics, 1 in 36 children identifies as on the spectrum.
Occupational therapy is an effective intervention for children, teenagers, and adults with autism, focusing on learning abilities, the self, and play skills. Additionally, it supports sensory issues for better results in life.
In neurodiversity, an occupational therapist determines the developmental levels of their clients on the spectrum through a comprehensive evaluation. An assessment will measure the several components of their functioning, including the following skills:
Through assessment, occupational therapists can identify areas where their clients need more support. Furthermore, OTs address features of autism that can hinder participation in daily routines and set up a plan with goals to progress through these challenges.
From there, occupational therapists help clients improve their skill sets and regulate their emotions. Through OT interventions, therapists support their clients as they strengthen and overcome many limitations their neurodiversity may present.
Who Are Occupational Therapists? What Are Their Qualifications?
Occupational therapists are a vital aspect of our healthcare system, as they work to assist individuals who struggle to engage in daily activities due to physical, mental, emotional, or developmental disabilities, tremendously helping society function. OTs aim to help these individuals regain their independence and improve their lifestyle so they can focus on what matters most to them.
To be a qualified and licensed occupational therapist, one must complete a master’s degree and pass a certification exam by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy, or NBCOT. The occupational therapist must also obtain licensing to provide occupational therapy services in their state.
These qualified professionals also possess excellent communication skills, patience, and a strong desire to help others. They significantly impact the lives of countless people needing their assistance, so their integrity matters.
The Advantages of Occupational Therapy for Autism
Occupational therapy utilizes specialized approaches to help individuals on the spectrum improve critical areas of life, including cognitive, physical, and social-emotional functioning. Many neurodivergent individuals struggle with daily activities due to challenges related to these complexities. By utilizing interventions promoting independence and productivity, occupational therapists can help clients on the spectrum achieve many meaningful objectives relevant to them.
Some common targets of occupational therapy for autism include:
- Learning grooming, bathing, dressing, eating routines
- Adapting to the use of equipment, like shower chairs or other adaptive tools that improve functioning
- Engaging in leisure and school activities
- Enhancing executive functioning, memory, and concentration
- Preventing falls and improving access to home safety
- Sensory processing management
- Better interaction and socialization
- Adapting appropriate playing skills
Because everyone on the spectrum is unique, with different dreams and objectives, some OTs specialize in helping individuals with other goals like swallowing and feeding difficulties, which are common in autism. With the help and support of occupational therapy, many neurodivergent children blossom in their everyday lives, regardless of their struggles or impairments.
Choosing the Right Occupational Therapist
When selecting an occupational therapist, it’s essential to ensure they have the proper qualifications and experience to provide high-quality treatment. An exceptional occupational therapist should be able to identify an individual’s strengths and weaknesses, design personalized goals and interventions, and provide ongoing support throughout the rehabilitation process while remaining engaging and compassionate.
It’s also essential to find an occupational therapist with a comfortable and inclusive approach towards their patients and, if possible, has previous experience with autism. The right occupational therapist can make a massive impact on an individual’s quality of care, so it’s crucial to take the time to choose the right one.
Common Types of Interventions Used in Occupational Therapy for Autism
There are various types of therapy methods used in occupational therapy, each designed to address different aspects of an individual’s abilities and challenges, including many of the following:
- Sensory integration or sensory-based practices
- Mental health and wellness practices
- Implementing techniques and programming for self-regulation and emotional development
- Social and peer groups
- Structured play activities
- Practicing self-care
- Enhancing motor development
- Physical activities
Combining ABA Therapy and Occupational Therapy to Optimize Results
When managing the needs of individuals with autism, combining ABA therapy with Occupational Therapy is a powerful approach. ABA focuses on changing behavior, while OT focuses on improving daily living and motor skills, among other areas affecting everyday life for many. Together, they offer a comprehensive and personalized system that maximizes results for those with autism receiving care.
By incorporating both ABA and OT, therapists can work with individuals to address challenging behaviors and improve functional independence and quality of life.
How Parents Can Support Their Loved One during Occupational Therapy Sessions
There are some simple practices caregivers can adopt to help support children through their occupational therapy course. Working closely with your child’s occupational therapist is vital in ensuring your child reaches their goals. Remember that the therapist supports and guides you and your child. Communicating regularly with their therapist and letting them know of any concerns or progress you notice at home is essential and can promote advancement.
Staying engaged in your child’s therapy sessions when you can and asking their OT questions can help you better understand the exercises and activities your child is doing and how you can continue to support them outside of sessions. Parents should also set clear expectations by asking appropriate questions before committing to a therapist or therapy plan.
By working together with your child’s occupational therapist, you can help your child achieve better results in OT sessions and look forward to their therapy appointments!
Occupations Therapy for Autism Makes a Difference
In conclusion, occupational therapy for autism is an evidence-based, goal-oriented practice that helps neurodivergent children reach their highest potential by improving skills that lead to greater participation in community, employment, and daily living. By assessing where a child needs assistance and providing individualized OT activities to help them excel, OTs can contribute to better outcomes for those receiving OT services.
From sensory integration therapy to more appropriate play, occupational therapy interventions can make a difference in the lives of those with autism. By providing the necessary support and interventions, individuals with autism can learn skills to navigate their environment better and achieve their goals best for them.
More About ABA Centers of Pennsylvania
ABA Centers of Pennsylvania provides top-tier ABA therapy services to children and teenagers with autism. We aim to help clients reach their full potential using evidence-based practices and personalized ABA therapy plans while offering diagnostic services for those needing an autism diagnosis.
We believe that with early ABA intervention and ongoing ABA care, including parent training, individuals with autism can learn to adapt, cope, thrive, and lead fulfilling lives. Contact us here to learn more about our services, or schedule a call at (844) 444-7496 to discuss your circumstances.
Remember, together, we can make a positive difference in their life!