Occupational Therapy


Occupational Therapy

Along with speech therapy and physical therapy, occupational therapy is one of the three most commonly offered therapies in the clinic setting. Occupational therapists may work toward a vast range of goals including (but not limited to):

  • Brushing their teeth
  • Playing (throwing a ball, using a swing)
  • Handwriting
  • Sensory integration (sight, touching, hearing)
  • Using a paint brush
  • Zipping a jacket
  • Tying shoes

Occupational therapists use well-established tests and evaluations to determine a child’s level of functioning. One such test is the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT); others include:

  • School Function Assessment (SFA)
  • Children’s Assessment of Participation and Enjoyment/Preference for Activities of Children (CAPE/PAC)
  • Assessment of Life Habits (Life-H)— Children
  • Movement Assessment Battery for Children— Second Edition (Movement ABC2)
  • Bruininks Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency, Second Edition (BOT-2)
  • Sensory Processing Measure
  • Sensory Profile School Companion
  • Sensory Integration and Praxis Test (SIPT)

In addition to testing, occupational therapists often observe children in a range of settings to see how well they are able to complete tasks of daily life. They may also watch to see whether specific sensory inputs such as florescent lights, buzzers, or strong smells create difficulties for the child.

Once tests and observations are complete, therapists develop a set of individualized goals for the child. These are very personal and depend on the child’s functional level and specific needs. Some are likely to relate to personal hygiene and life skills, others to academics and still others to functioning in the social environment.

Occupational therapists will often recommend starting the day with a sensory circuit: a sensory–motor activity program which helps children achieve a “ready to learn” state. Sensory circuits are a series of activities designed specifically to wake up all the senses. They are a great way to energize or settle children into the day.

Each session includes three elements.    

  • Alerting activities (for example spinning, bouncing on a gym ball, skipping, star jumps) to stimulate the body’s central nervous system in preparation for learning.
  • Organizing activities (for example balancing on a wobble board, log rolling, juggling) which demand brain and body to work together.
  • Calming activities (heavy muscle work and deep pressure for example wall pushes, push-ups, using weights) to give an awareness of their body in space and increases the ability to self-regulate sensory input.

Children are more regulated, calmer and focused after these activities, reducing anxiety and increasing opportunities to thrive and achieve in the overwhelming environment in which we now live.

What does the CDC say about Autism?

CDC works 24/7 to protect America from health, safety and security threats, both foreign and in the U.S. Click the boxes below to learn what the CDC says about ASD.

Autism Diagnosis CDC

Diagnosing ASD can be difficult since there is no medical test, like a blood test, to diagnose the disorders. Doctors look at the child’s behavior and development to make a diagnosis.

ASD can sometimes be detected at 18 months or younger. By age 2, a diagnosis by an experienced professional can be considered very reliable. However, many children do not receive a final diagnosis until much older. This delay means that children with ASD might not get the early help they need.

ASD Treatment CDC

There is currently no cure for ASD. However, research shows that early intervention treatment services can improve a child’s development. Early intervention services help children from birth to 3 years old (36 months) learn important skills. Services can include therapy to help the child talk, walk, and interact with others. Therefore, it is important to talk to your child’s doctor as soon as possible if you think your child has ASD or other developmental problem.

Even if your child has not been diagnosed with an ASD, he or she may be eligible for early intervention treatment services. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)external icon says that children under the age of 3 years (36 months) who are at risk of having developmental delays may be eligible for services. These services are provided through an early intervention system in your state. Through this system, you can ask for an evaluation.

In addition, treatment for particular symptoms, such as speech therapy for language delays, often does not need to wait for a formal ASD diagnosis.

Causes and Risk Factors CDC

We do not know all of the causes of ASD. However, we have learned that there are likely many causes for multiple types of ASD. There may be many different factors that make a child more likely to have an ASD, including environmental, biologic and genetic factors.

  • Most scientists agree that genes are one of the risk factors that can make a person more likely to develop ASD.
  • Children who have a sibling with ASD are at a higher risk of also having ASD. 
  • Individuals with certain genetic or chromosomal conditions, such as fragile X syndrome or tuberous sclerosis, can have a greater chance of having ASD. 
  • When taken during pregnancy, the prescription drugs valproic acid and thalidomide have been linked with a higher risk of ASD.
  • There is some evidence that the critical period for developing ASD occurs before, during, and immediately after birth. 
  • Children born to older parents are at greater risk for having ASD.

ASD continues to be an important public health concern. Like the many families living with ASD, CDC wants to find out what causes the disorder. Understanding the factors that make a person more likely to develop ASD will help us learn more about the causes. We are currently working on one of the largest U.S. studies to date, called Study to Explore Early Development (SEED). SEED is looking at many possible risk factors for ASD, including genetic, environmental, pregnancy, and behavioral factors.

Who is Affected? CDC

ASD occurs in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups, but is about 4 times more common among boys than among girls.

For over a decade, CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network has been estimating the number of children with ASD in the United States. We have learned a lot about how many U. S. children have ASD. It will be important to use the same methods to track how the number of children with ASD is changing over time in order to learn more about the disorder.

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Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapists will often recommend starting the day with a sensory circuit: a sensory–motor activity program which helps children achieve a “ready to learn” state. Sensory circuits are a series of activities designed specifically to wake up all the senses.

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