What is Occupational Therapy for Autism?

Occupational Therapy is a regulated health profession that specializes in providing a client-centered approach to dealing with the occupations of every day living regardless of impairment or disability. Occupations are tasks or activities that every person does in the span of a day to care for oneself and to participate in work, play and leisure. One of the goals of occupational therapy is to assist an individual in finding and participating in meaningful occupations.

Having autism may mean that the individual has difficulty participating in self-care tasks (for example: toileting, brushing teeth, eating, dressing etc.), play (for example: interacting with peers in appropriate ways, initiating conversation either verbally or through communication device, maintaining friendships etc.), work (for example: finding a job, attending to the tasks of paid or unpaid employment) and leisure (for example: playing a team sport, tolerating the swimming pool, leaving the house etc.).  Occupational therapy can assist the family (and child) in determining the most effective ways to facilitate engagement in these everyday activities or occupations. 

Each stage of life comes with certain developmental milestones, roles and expectations from others to participate and behave in age-specific ways.  When an individual has autism, the variety and discrepancy in skill development can be alarming and confusing to parents and caregivers.  Occupational therapists are skilled in identifying the barriers to an individual’s success in achieving a specific goal and can assist the individual in breaking the task down into manageable chunks.

Occupational therapists are holistic in their approach.  This means that the therapist will take all aspects of each individual (spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, physically, intellectually) into careful consideration while balancing the role that the physical and social environment play on either facilitating or hindering achievement of that individual’s goals.  Individuals with autism may have difficulties regulating their emotions, may have sensory issues that overwhelm the body, may have a very negative self-esteem and may have cognitive impairments which impact on insight and self-awareness.  Families may or may not understand the needs of a person with autism and may feel overwhelmed in attempting to provide support.

Parents and caregivers may struggle with keeping a positive outlook on life when chaos is occurring in the home.  Occupational therapists have a keen understanding of mental health,  how to manage stress, how to cope with anxiety, how to deal with anger, frustration and how to rally supports.

Finding a therapist that inherently understands autism from real-life experience means that you spend less time trying to explain a conundrum and more time finding appropriate, evidence-based solutions so you can get on with living the way you and your family want to live.

On The Spectrum Therapy Services can provide you with an occupational therapist who will help you understand the reasons behind the challenges you face and provide you and your family with guidance and support in achieving your goals.