What is OT and How Does It Benefit a Child with Autism?

What is OT and How Does It Benefit a Child with Autism?

When your child is diagnosed with autism, a likely part of their care plan is occupational therapy (OT). This is because the intent of OT is to help the child adapt to their environments more easily and become independent and functioning adults.

For many children with autism, filtering out sensory input is an endless challenge, which then causes sensory overload, resulting in a meltdown or, for some, a shutdown. Others struggle with fine or gross motor skills that are preventing them from engaging in activities they would otherwise enjoy. Still others struggle with focusing on the task at hand, causing consistent challenges at school.

OT is a holistic therapy that addresses all of these needs. 

If you are a parent of a child who currently participates in OT, or will in the future, here are some OT basics that will clue you in on what it is and why it is so important.

What Is OT?

Occupational Therapy uses both play and skill practice to guide the children towards meeting individualized goals. The focus of the session and the goals they are working towards typically fall into one of these categories:

  • Fine motor skills
  • Gross motor skills
  • Visual motor skills
  • Sensory integration
  • Emotional regulation
  • Transitions
  • Safety awareness
  • Eating habits
  • Daily living skills
  • Skills to succeed in school
  • Communication and social skills

The occupational therapist works to address the needs of the whole child, and assesses each child to determine the individual areas of concern.

What Will The Occupational Therapist Do?

The occupational therapist will conduct an assessment of the child and, based on its results, along with teacher and parent feedback, put together a plan that outlines specific goals for the child. They will use play, role-playing, activities, and even apps as part of the intervention.

For many children on the autism spectrum, working on sensory processing and learning to regulate is a substantial focus of OT. The occupational therapist will develop a sensory diet for your specific child. By following the sensory diet, the objective is that the child will be more regulated more consistently, and less prone to sensory overload, meltdowns, or withdrawal. 

The Benefits of OT 

The work the occupational therapist does with your child, and the advice they give to follow at home, will help your child with autism’s nervous system become more regulated. When they are more regulated, they are prone to less anxiety, able to focus more, and less exhausted overall. Over time, you will see the strategies they learn being applied to times of stress or anxiety in other environments.

They will work on developing your child’s essential skills, such as handwriting, daily living skills, and motor skills. With this assistance, your child will be able to live more independently, and experience greater success at school.

Gersh Academy at Cougar Mountain includes occupational therapy in the education plans of any student who qualifies. That means your student receives the high-quality intervention they need while at school. If you are interested in a school that specializes in helping unique learners reach their potential, reach out here.



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