Occupational Therapy Treatments For Autism Spectrum Disorder

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Occupational Therapy Treatments For Autism Spectrum Disorder | Triumph Therapeutics | Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy in Washington DC

Every child has different needs and will develop skills at a different rate.

Some children may, from an early age, have different needs and strengths than their peers in terms of communication and interaction with the world.

If your child is having difficulty in these areas that may mean that they have autism spectrum disorder.

In that case you may be looking for a child occupational therapist in Washington DC, and Triumph Therapeutics is here to help you and your child manage the symptoms of autism.

Autism has been defined in psychological terms since the 1940s but has been around much longer than that.

There are still many misconceptions about autism that persist today.

In this article we’re going to talk a little bit about what autism is, what the potential causes are, and how occupational therapy can help.

What Is Autism?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a term used to refer to a broad grouping of symptoms.

The DSM-5 expanded the definition of autism to include autistic disorder, Asperger’s syndrome, pervasive development disorder – not otherwise specified, and childhood disintegrative disorder.

Originally these were thought of as separate conditions, but further research has concluded they’re variations of the same disorder – hence the spectrum. The symptoms typically include difficulty with communication and social interaction.

Autism often also comes along with restricted or repetitive patterns of behavior. There is currently no known cure for autism, and there is unlikely to be, since it has to do with the way the brain is wired.

Instead, treatment focuses on helping people with autism better communicate and making them more comfortable navigating their day-to-day activities. Many people with autism have families, careers, friends, and otherwise perfectly fulfilling lives.

What Is The Autism Spectrum?

Autism is referred to as a spectrum because people with autism may have a wide range of symptoms, behaviors, and abilities.

People sometimes think of autism as being on a sliding scale from “high functioning” to “low functioning”, but it can be more complex than that, which the word spectrum better encompasses.

Different people with autism will need support in different areas of their lives, and just because someone is strong in one area doesn’t mean they’ll be consistently able to navigate a world built for neurotypical people on their own.

By the way, “neurotypical” is the word used to refer to folks who are not autistic and don’t have any other neurological disorders.

For example, someone may have difficulty with verbal communication but be comfortable writing, texting, or communicating in different ways. This variation in strength and needs between individuals with autism is what the autism spectrum refers to.

What Are The Symptoms Of Autism?

There are a variety of symptoms that can present as a part of autism, but they generally fall into the three categories: communication, restrictive or repetitive behaviors, and sensory processing.

People with autism may have difficulty with verbal communication, reading body language, articulating their feelings, or knowing when to talk and when to listen in conversations.

Many people with autism regulate and manage their feelings (both sensory and emotional) by using repetitive movements or behaviors, called self-stimulatory behavior, or stimming.

They may also adhere closely to daily or otherwise regular routines. For example, some children on the autism spectrum may struggle with a change to their bedtime routine if a babysitter is taking care of them or there isn’t time for the bath they usually get before bed. Many people on the autism spectrum have trouble regulating sensory input.

This can present as over or under sensitivity to noise, light, touch, and smells. Over sensitivities generally present as avoidance, such as covering their ears for noises that might not be bothering other people in a room.

On the other hand, under sensitivities often present as sensory seeking behavior like yelling or tapping on things.

What Causes Autism?

There is no one known cause of autism.

Most research points to there being a variety of things that can influence how likely someone is to have autism spectrum disorder in some combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Some of the suspected risk factors are a family history of autism, fragile X syndrome, or other genetic disorders, low birth weight, having older parents, exposure to environmental contaminants, a history of viral infection, or fetal exposure to certain medications.

This doesn’t mean that without these factors a child can’t have autism, they may just make it more likely. One factor that doesn’t impact the likelihood of a child developing autism is vaccination.

There is no link between autism and vaccines considering huge amounts of research following a since retracted study from 1998 that suggested there might be and has been repeatedly debunked.

Occupational Therapy Treatments For Autism

As previously mentioned, there is no known cure for autism, but occupational therapy is one tool that can be used to help people with autism learn to navigate their world more comfortably.

Occupational therapists help people to interact independently with their environments through their daily activities. They generally work with the parents, teachers, and caregivers of children with autism to help set and reach specific goals for the child.

An occupational therapist can assess a child’s needs and help them do different activities to help them build up their skills and their confidence in a safe and controlled way.

This could mean activities like bead stringing for coordination and body awareness, different games and activities to help with social communication, working together to find adaptive strategies, and helping the child learn specific skills such as brushing their teeth or hair on their own.

The earlier a child gets help to manage and meet their needs, the more easily they’ll be able to learn how to interact with their peers and integrate into their daily environments.

Read on below to find out more about the individual occupational therapy interventions we may use, depending on your child’s needs.

A child with autism spectrum disorder can benefit from occupational therapy treatments | Triumph Therapeutics | Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy in Washington DC

1. Sensory Integration Therapy

Kids who have autism spectrum disorder often deal with sensory processing issues.

This relates to the way their brains process the input they get from their senses – smell, taste, touch, sound, proprioception, kinesthetic awareness, and more.

This can cause autistic children to be either hypersensitive, or hyposensitive, to sensory stimuli. This can vary from child to child as well.

Some children may become excited by loud music, for example, while others might feel extreme stress.

This can cause issues with gross and fine motor skills and balance as well.

Sensory integration therapy can help. Using play oriented sessions, sensory integration therapy helps children with sensory processing issues to better tolerate sensory rich environments.

2. Social Stories

It’s well known that one of the most common difficulties autistic people have is in navigating social situations. Social stories can help.

Social stories is a treatment protocol developed to help describe situations in terms of social cues and how to respond to them.

These are simple stories designed to help an autistic child anticipate potential situations so they can better prepare for how to respond to them.

Social stories have three elements.

First, the description of the situation – this describes what the child is going to do, without attaching any opinions or judgments to it. A descriptive sentence may look like: My family is having a birthday party for my older sister. At the party, there will be lots of kids. There may be loud noises.

Next, the perspective sentence – this goes into how a child might feel about the situation described in the previous sentence. For example: Sometimes when I hear loud noises I get upset. If I do I might upset my sister and I might be sad that I didn’t get to have fun.

Finally, the directive sentence. This helps your child understand what they can do about the situation – always in a positive light, such as “I can” statements rather than “I won’t”. For example: If the party gets loud and the noise upsets me, I can put on my headphones to quiet the noise. Then I can stay and have fun.

Framing activities in this way can help your child prepare for situations that might be uncomfortable for them.

3. Visual Scheduling

One of the common traits of autism is a fondness for routine. It reinforces a feeling of stability in their lives.

As a result, it can be helpful to create a visual schedule. A visual schedule is just what it sounds like – a schedule to help your child see their routine in an easy to follow format.

Such visual schedules can include what time they perform a variety of tasks, including:

  • Waking up
  • Brushing their teeth
  • Showering
  • Using the washroom
  • Homework
  • Screen time
  • Meals
  • Bed time

When your child can see their schedule laid out like this, they can better learn how to take care of themselves. This allows them to grow to be more independent as they get older.

Book Your Appointment With Triumph Therapeutics Today

We understand that your child’s health and happiness is a priority.

Your child’s needs may be more complicated or difficult to figure out if they have autism, but at Triumph Therapeutics we use occupational therapy as a tool to help your child function as comfortably as possible in their day-to-day life.

Book an appointment today and get you and your child started on your journey to better communication and easier navigation of the world.


If you’re ready to take the next step, reach out today for a free phone consultation.

Triumph Therapeutics

4900 Massachusetts Ave NW suite 340,
Washington, DC 20016

(202) 621-9793
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Triumph Therapeutics is a team of highly experienced pediatric therapists specializing in physical therapy, speech language therapy, and occupation therapy for children, adolescents and their families as they work to reach their growth and wellness goals