Children with autism often present with similar delays and deficits that can lead to an occupational therapy evaluation. Some of those delays are in fine motor skills, gross motor skills, sensory processing abilities, balance and coordination, weakened core, poor postural control, and delays in self-care tasks as well as school-related tasks, all of which can be addressed during an occupational therapy session. Most children at Cornerstone receive direct occupational therapy one time a week for 45 minutes each session to work on the skills listed above. In conjunction to this direct service, programs are in place for the child’s ABA therapists to work on skills daily, leading to an increase of OT goals met in a shorter amount of time. Below are some activities and resources that you could do at home to help facilitate the skills listed above for an increase in performance throughout your child’s daily routine.
Fine Motor Skills The focus of activities to promote increased fine motor skills should be to strengthen the tiny muscles throughout the digits and palm. Some activities to do this include:
Gross Motor Skills The focus of gross motor activities should be to include the whole body in the activity, the more muscle groups involved the better. Some good activities to try:
Sensory Processing and Modulation Like most areas- children with autism will show a variety of deficits and delays. Sensory processing is something that is very child specific. The activities below may be very stimulating for one child while it may be extremely aversive to another child. Feel free to contact me to discuss how your child responds to various types of sensory input. Texture play- playing with a variety of textures; rice, beans, putty, play dough, shaving cream, cooked noodles, sand, and the list goes on.
The key component to sensory modulation is to vary the input throughout the day. The more input they receive from the categories listed above, the better their bodies will be at processing the added input.
Postural Control and Muscle Coordination Weak or low muscle tone is a common factor in children with autism and without good core control, it makes fine and gross motor skills difficulty because they do not have a stable base of support to work from. Below are some activities to help strengthening the core for increased postural stability;
Self Care and School Tasks Many times, when the above skills are worked on, the result is improved independence and performance in self-care and school related tasks. But working on these skills can help better facilitate that independence.
The key component to occupational therapy is keeping the sessions and activities “child-directed.” This means I allow the child to pick what we do but I manipulate it into being therapeutic and to work on the goals I have set for the child. This way, it is always motivating, and they child does not realize that they are doing “work.” When working at home, I encourage you to be playful and imaginative with the activities, this will yield the best results. Below are some websites that may be useful resources for activities to do at home.
April 9, 2014, Dr. Rachel Timmons, OTD, OTR/L