OT for Autism & Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)
Sensory Therapy and Occupational Therapy for children with autism addresses many aspects of the disability including developmental coordination and sensory integration. OT is quite effective in addressing Sensory Processing Disorder. Canadian Children’s Therapy provides OT and Sensory therapy treatment for social skills, sensory processing, sensory sensitivity, vestibular, balance and self-regulation of behaviour to children with autism, according to their needs. Preschoolers may need help to learn to dress, use feeding utensils and potty train, while many school-age children with autism have delays in learning to ride a bike and with handwriting.
Sensory Processing in Autism
Many children diagnosed with Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome have challenges with SENSORY PROCESSING, that is taking in or screening out the sounds, sights, lights, movement, textures or touch from their environments. Occupational therapy can make a significant difference, for infants (feeding and hypersensitivity), toddlers, preschoolers and elementary school aged children. Sensory therapy helps children manage and cope.
Children with autism may be overly sensitive to some sensations while being under-responsive to others. Sometimes the sensory overload will put them into a high alertness state, like a fight or flight response, resulting in meltdowns or tantrums. Sometimes sensory overload will push children to shut down and withdraw. Occupational Therapy helps children with sensory processing disorders who experience sensory overload. This may include clothing sensitivity, taste and texture extreme preferences (we offer Feeding therapy), auditory sensory issues, and more.
Self Regulation in Autism
Self regulation is that ability to remain calm across environments and to modulate emotions even when over stimulated, hungry or tired. To keep ourselves with just the right amount of focus and attention for the task at hand, we all use tools and strategies. Self regulation can be especially challenging for children with Autism. OT services help children and families to developing tools and strategies for self regulation that work for them.
Occupational Therapy’s Role in Self-Regulation & Sensory Processing Disorder
Occupational Therapy for Sensory Processing Disorder addresses how sensory information is getting in, and it also teaches children to recognize the effects of sensory overload early and to use sensory tools and strategies to regulate attention in a wide range of environments. In their occupational therapy sessions, children engage in play activities that bring together vision, movement, sound and balance to integrate information that comes through different sensory channels (sometimes referred to as Sensory Integration therapy). Children also engage in muscle work activities to help self-regulate attention.
Feeding Therapy and Autism
Many children with autism are following special diets under the guidance of a nutritional expert. In addition some children with autism are very restricted in the tastes or textures they will eat, or refuse new foods based on how they look. Some children will get stuck on one favorite food for weeks and then replace it with a new singular favorite food, rejecting everything else. Occupational Therapy creates a personalized program for the child and family that follows a developmental sequence. Therapy helps children with overactive gag or under sensitive oral musculature to learn to bite and chew without overstuffing or gagging. Oral motor strategies for straw drinking and blowing blow toys are also used. The Get Permission and the SOS approach to feeding are utilized to expand children’s food choices, and to prevent food jags. Food choices are systematically expanded in a supportive setting.
Vestibular Therapy for Developmental Coordination Disorder & Autism:
Many children with autism have difficulties with coordination and balance, sometimes due to vestibular processing challenges. Canadian Children’s Therapy utilizes a variety of vestibular therapies with therapy swings, scooterboards, rotation boards and balance equipment. To improve bilateral coordination and eye-hand coordination, Bal-a-vis-x routines with beanbags and balls are one of the modalities used. Therapy includes many motor activities to increase core strength, including yoga.
Handwriting & Autism:
There can be many reasons children struggle with handwriting, including visual tracking, attention, visual perception, hand strength and coordination, and postural stability. Canadian Children’s Therapy assessments tease out these variables, and there are therapies to address all of them. OT provides compensatory strategies and tools to improve handwriting output and treats the underlying sensory and motor disabilities. Handwriting Without Tears, Benbow Loops & Groups, and the BC Printing Like A Pro program curriculums are used at Canadian Children’s Therapy.
Social Skills & Autism:
Canadian Children’s Therapy draws from the Alert program and the Winner-Garcia social skills series for elementary school age and teens, as well as anti-bullying and friendmaker curriculums, the Hidden Curriculum and others. The incredible five point scale and similar scales are utilized for teaching self-awareness and self-calming. Anxiety work with older children includes cognitive behavioral approaches, sometimes drawing from Tony Atwood’s workbooks.
Fine Motor Skills & Autism:
Occupational Therapy uses a variety of toys and games to improve finger, hand and wrist strength and coordination in therapy sessions. Therapists also make customized suggestions for home or school strategies to incorporate just the right strengthening challenges into your child’s daily routines.
Sensory Processing Resources:
Many books are available about sensory processing. Check the local library or borrow from our collection of these books and more:
- The Out of Sync Child, Carol Stock Kranowitz
- The Sensory-Sensitive Child, Karen A Smith & Karen R Gouze
- Raising a Sensory Smart Child, Lindsey Biel & Nancy Peske
- Too Loud, Too Bright, Too Fast, Too Tight, Sharon Heller
- Sensational Kids, Lucy Jane Miller & Doris A Fuller
- Freaks, Geeks and Asperger Syndrome, Luke Jackson, 2002