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What Is Occupational Therapy for Children With Autism?

what is occupational therapy

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental condition characterized by impaired social communication skills, isolated areas of interest, and repetitive and restricted behaviors.

Autism symptoms can be recognized as early as age two, but ASD is typically diagnosed after age four. However, early diagnosis and intervention can greatly improve outcomes for children diagnosed with autism. An occupational therapy program is a primary mode of intervention for cases like this. Searching for an occupational therapy program for autism treatment in California? Call Opya at (650) 931-6300 or reach out to our team online.

What Is Occupational Therapy for Autism Treatment?

Occupational therapy is a healthcare field that involves holistically treating those with disabilities, injuries, or other conditions — including ASD. Occupational therapists help these people develop, recover, or maintain the ability to engage in meaningful daily activities, such as communicating appropriately with others.

Occupational therapists begin the process by communicating directly with a child diagnosed with autism and their family to understand the child’s needs. Together, they assess the child’s cognitive, emotional, physical, and sensory abilities before developing reasonable goals and a treatment plan. The therapist then works with the child diagnosed with autism in sessions that can be onsite or at-home, helping them make progress toward their goals.

Occupational therapy for autism treatment aims to improve a child diagnosed with autism’s ability to self-regulate emotions and participate in social interactions. It can also help children diagnosed with autism build on their areas of strength and overcome their limitations.

How Does Occupational Therapy Work?

Now that you know what occupational therapy for autism is, it may be easier to understand how exactly it works. To evaluate a child diagnosed with autism, the occupational therapist may use screening tools such as an autism checklist, a sensory profile, the childhood autism rating scale (CARS), or diagnosis criteria outlined in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). When observing a child, an occupational therapist will consider the following skills:

  • Cognitive: Attention span, stamina
  • Communication: Non-verbal communication, speech
  • Motor: Posture, balance, manipulation of small objects
  • Sensory: Responses to stimuli, sensory defensiveness, sensory seeking
  • Social: Aggression, behavior, desire for personal space, emotion regulation, eye contact, interactions with others

After completing the evaluation, the therapist works with the child and their family to develop treatment goals and an intervention plan. Occupational therapy interventions for children diagnosed with autism may include the following:

  • Emphasizing mental health and wellness
  • Focusing on sensory-based strategies and sensory integration
  • Implementing emotional development strategies and self-regulation plans
  • Improving self-care routines to help with daily activities such as bathing and feeding
  • Organizing peer groups, play activities, and other methods of social participation
  • Using cognitive-behavioral approaches to support positive behaviors
  • Working on motor development

When Should You Consider Occupational Therapy for Autism Treatment?

Because of how occupational therapy works, it’s worth considering it in most cases of autism. It’s the primary treatment type recommended for young children diagnosed with autism.

If occupational therapy still isn’t part of your child diagnosed with autism’s routine, consider adding it to their schedule if they need help to do any of the following:

  • Become more independent and confident
  • Communicate appropriately
  • Productively express emotions and regulate arousal level
  • Feel less anxious
  • Focus on academic tasks
  • Learn to delay gratification
  • Maintain and foster relationships
  • Work with others to achieve a common purpose or goal

Ready To Learn More About Opya’s Occupational Therapy for Autism Treatment?

There are many therapy options available to individuals and families with autism. If you’re looking for an occupational therapy program for autism treatment in California, call Opya at (650) 931-6300 today. You can also reach out to our team online.