Occupational therapy (OT) helps people achieve independence in all facets of their lives – the skills for the job of living. While OT for people with autism is often thought of in terms of the skills necessary for handwriting, dressing and eating, it also encompasses skills necessary to perform daily chores, eating, dressing, basic hygiene and personal care, as well as using one’s muscles to sit, stand, and perform other physical activities.
Sensory Integration is often a deficit for people with autism. Processing information that we receive through all of our senses can often be delayed or disordered in people with autism. An OT specializing in Sensory Integration can help a person with autism learn to process sensory input in a more normalized manner. For example, an OT may
- Provide interventions to help a child appropriately respond to information coming through the senses. Intervention may include swinging, brushing, playing in a ball pit and a whole gamut of other activities aimed at helping a child better manage his body in space. If you don’t know where your body is in space, it is difficult to pay attention to a teacher at the front of the room. If your body reacts inappropriately to certain sensory inputs you will have difficulty in handling situations that the rest of us find easy to manage.
- Devise strategies to help the individual transition from one setting to another, from one person to another, and from one life phase to another. For a child with autism, this may involve soothing strategies for managing transition from home to school; for adults with autism it may involve vocational skills, cooking skills and more.
- Develop adaptive techniques and strategies to get around apparent disabilities (for example, teaching keyboarding when handwriting is simply impossible; wearing a weighted vest to enhance focus)