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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).

Fine Motor Activities

Here are some great ideas for fine motor activities!

I just found this video of Lauren Flores, Occupational Therapist in the US outlining some ideas for fine motor activities and has to share it with you! You might find these activities useful and fun to do with your child.

Have a look at Tinder the occupational therapy dog!

Fine Motor Activities for Handwriting

Participating in fine motor activities can help your child to improve their handwriting ability. Hand and finger weakness, poor sensation and sometimes bad habits can prevent children from mastering handwriting and other fine motor skills. These fine motor activities can help to improve the child’s skills. An occupational therapist can establish exactly which movements need improvement and what fine motor activities will help to develop that movement.

A child may also need help with gross motor skills. Good posture and a stable base are also important for handwriting. An occupational therapist can also diagnose and prescribe appropriate activities for children who need help with gross motor skills.

If you would like more information, please contact help @ childworks.com.au.