Tag Archives: Occupational therapy for children

Occupational Therapy and ASD

Occupational Therapy and Autism Spectrum Disorder

Occupational therapy can help children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Childworks is an occupational therapy practice in Castle Hill which helps children in the Hills District and Northern Suburbs of Sydney.

Occupational therapists or (OTs) are university educated health professionals. OTs can assist children to engage in school, play and self-care occupations and to participate in their life roles with their families at home, school, and in the community. Because OTs help children in a range of locations, Childworks is a mobile practice. We can see children in our rooms, at home, at school or day care and in the community. Having treatment at the appropriate location helps children to generalise their skills and progress.

Boy blowing bubbles

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Austism Spectrum Disorder is a range of developmental disorders. The characteristics common to these disorders, are social interaction and restricted or narrow interests. In many cases, it also involves communication difficulties. Many people who are on the Autism Spectrum also have unusual sensory interests and sensitivities as well as learning difficulties. It is estimated that around 1% of people in Australia are on the Autism Spectrum and there are significantly more boys than girls.

Children on the Spectrum have a wide range of abilities, strengths and difficulties. Some children show impressive abilities in specific areas. All children are different including children with ASD. We used to think of the different presentations of ASD as distinct disorders. The term ASD is now used which helps to emphasise the range of disorders that covers a continuum or spectrum.

Early intervention or treatment of young children is usually recommended so that issues and barriers can be addressed quickly, providing the best opportunity for the child to achieve their potential. Therapies often recommended for children with ASD include speech pathology, psychology, behavioural interventions and occupational therapy (OT).

OT treatment at home

For families overwhelmed with a heavy schedule of assessments and treatments, as well as the demands in other aspects of their lives, occupational therapy treatment given at home can help to ease the burden.

Childworks is able to provide assessment and treatment for children on the Autism Spectrum

Childworks OTs are child and family focused. They can assist children in managing every day tasks (or occupations), sensory and coordination issues, as well as some of the behavioural and coordination difficulties, that often accompany ASD.

Every day activities form the basis for OT. Occupational therapists are expert in modifying activities and environments to assist children to achieve their maximum potential. Barriers such as sensory and coordination issues can be evaluated in relation to the impact on the tasks or occupations the child needs to perform. Activity or occupation is often used to help overcome a barrier. Where possible we design the activities used as therapy to be fun!

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Should my child see an Occupational Therapist?

Referral to an OT is appropriate if a child has difficulties with play, self-care, or school tasks such as handwriting or maintaining attention in class. It may also be appropriate if you are concerned about changes in the child’s life, such as starting school. Additionally it may be appropriate to see and OT if your child has sensory or coordination difficulties.

Sometimes children with ASD need additional help to participate in every day activities. This help might be in the form of modification of the activity, the environment, training in specific skills, provision of equipment or range of other interventions.

What is involved when a child sees a Childworks Occupational Therapist?

When you call Childworks, we will arrange a time for an initial assessment. The assessment will take around 1.5 to 2 hours and will involve observation discussion of the child’s motor, social and cognitive development. Standardised assessments may also be used. With your approval, the Childworks OT may contact other people in your child’s life, for example your child’s school, preschool or day care and other health professionals. Discussions with these people will provide the OT with a greater understanding of your child’s strengths and weaknesses, development and behaviour. A visit to school, preschool or day care may also be arranged if necessary. OTs work with the family and community to help the child learn new ways to develop skills.

How is Childworks different?

Like all professionals, each practice has its own approach. Childworks focuses on a functional approach, that is, we emphasise practical aspects of your child’s life and help them to maximise their potential in those areas.

For example, if your morning routine is a problem we will analyse what is going on with that routine. We may modify the environment removing distractions for you child and adding prompts to help him or her with their independent self care. We may help your child to develop specific skills in dressing or eating, we may provide some guidance on how you as a parent can modify the routine and use behavioural tools to overcome issues.

We will identify a problem and use a number of interventions, including using your child’s own strengths to overcome those issues. Clinical research supports this approach.

Treatments can very enormously! They may involve using toys, participating in daily activities, providing information to parents or caregivers or even a trip to the shops. We design an individual programme to help your child to achieve their full potential.

As much as possible, we try to see children with ASD in their own environment. This helps them to develop skills in the location they will need them. It also helps us to identify any other factors that may be impacting on your child’s function.

What funding is available?

If your child has a formal diagnosis from a paediatrican, a range of funding options may be available including the FaHCSIA, Helping Children with Autism package. Some Medicare items may also be available. Private health funding can be an option but is generally quite limited. A formal diagnosis may not be required to use your private health fund.

The range of options available can be confusing . Please feel free to contact Childworks for more information.

How do I make an appointment with a Childworks occupational therapist?

You can call on 0418447072 and make a time for an appointment. Alternatively you can us the contact page on this website or just email Childworks at help @ childworks.com.au (remove spaces which have been added to reduce spam).

The decline of handwriting: a rant

Developing  Skills for Handwriting

There is no doubt the world is changing and changing at an increasing pace. Many children still love their sport but many don’t. The older fine motor activities seem to be dated now that they have been replaced by computers. And why not? Inside a computer (connected to the internet) is an entire world. You can be anyone, do anything, learn anything. Whatever, your passion, you can get your fix on line. So the old-fashioned kids activities like, marbles, jacks, drawing, making things, and so on, well, they don’t really compete. Children participate in fine motor activities much less they have  done in years gone by. That is of course, with the exception of keyboard use! Most kids seem to be pretty skilled at that!

Even gross motor skills are not practiced as much as they were. For children who love sport, they do still participate, but lets face it. These are not the kids who needed the practice anyway. The kids who find sport a bit challenging are less likely to give netball or footy a go and more likely to try an online game instead. There seems to be less casual sport around. Most sport these days seems to be of the more formal variety, where you register with your local AFL, netball or athletics club. You attend games on Saturdays (generally on the other side of the city), train on Tuesdays and complete the season, hopefully as the champion team. That kind of sport is great but I regret that kids don’t seem to participate in the less formal version as much. The football after school, with whoever turns up, cricket in the cul de sac and the even less organised hitting a ball against a wall with a stick!

Difficulty with Handwriting

Both fine motor and goss motor skills are important for handwriting. When you add to the fact that children are not developing these skills in the same way they have in the past, with the fact that they are simply not using handwriting as much at school or at home, it is little wonder so many children have difficulty with handwriting.

Handwriting in the Education System

Now, I am not calling for a return to the past. No one can deny the overwhelming advantages to the use of technology. In the future handwriting is likely to be a more specialised skill and children will be able to complete their education with no disadvantage due to poor handwriting. I believe that computers will be used for all exams in the future. But this is not the case now. Handwriting is a critical part of education for every child. If a child cannot master handwriting so that it is legible and produced at a reasonable speed, then they are at a significant disadvantage in the current system. Handwriting has also been shown to assist in the learning process.

Helping Children Who Have Difficulties with Handwriting

Childworks can help children to develop the handwriting skills they need at school. We evaluate each child individually, looking not only at their handwriting ability, but their general performance at school and at home and any issues that might be impacting on their handwriting ability for example their environment, disability or other factors. We then put together a plan to help them based on evidence about the development of handwriting skills and on what that child in particular needs. This involves, where possible, seeing the child perform at school and speaking to his or her teacher.

Referring a Child for Help With Handwriting

If you would like to refer your child to Childworks or just ask a question, please use the contact form which you can find here.