When we first got Jackson evaluated, Occupational Therapy [OT] wasn’t on our radar. Honestly, we didn’t even know what it was. It wasn't until they recommended it to us [because with an ASD diagnosis, it normally comes with a few others - it’s very rarely a single diagnosis] as a delay that we realized it was something he actually needed.
OT works to develop skills needed to live independently in a school setting & beyond - basically appropriate play. Therapists use holistic approaches through specific programs based on the kids needs. They take into account the physical, emotional, social & cognitive abilities of each individual kid - no approach is the same.
With Autism, OT’s work on handwriting, fine motor skills & daily living skills. However, the biggest part is working with their sensory processing disorders. For Jackson, his sensory thing is spacial awareness. This explains his need to do what we call “wind sprints” everywhere. He has to know how his body feels in the surrounding space. So running fast & jumping on his trampoline to feel the air, squeezing in tight spaces, getting quick, tight hugs for the proprioceptive feedback & sitting in his bean bag, etc. We only learned these things through his OT. She determined this through playing with him & once they’re established, she works certain exercises into his therapy to provide him feedback so he doesn’t get over or under stimulated. This is called sensory integration.
FINE MOTOR SKILLS
Thankfully, Jackson’ gross motor skills have always been great but his fine motor were definitely lacking. This skill development will assist him down the line with handwriting, tying his shoes, etc - pretty much anything that requires his hands & fingers. Also the visual-motor & visual-perceptual skills required for reading & writing will be developed.
This is an ongoing aspect - a self sustaining skill that will always be a factor. Standard things like eating with a utensil, proper use of a zipper, potty training, etc. These things we take for granted but don’t come as quickly to those with Autism. In time, he’ll become more self relient & we won’t have to lead & guide him as much.
SOCIAL INTERACTION / SELF ESTEEM
As simple as this seems, it’s not a common sense aspect with Autism. J normally does parallel play, which is doing his own thing BESIDE others. So for him to learn how to interact with others is part of what he learns to do. & then in time, once he discovers how to interact with others appropriately, he’ll develop the self esteem to play with other kids that aren’t part of his core group.
For the past 6-7 months, Jackson has been receiving an hour of OT once a week & has made incredible improvements! We can only look forward to any progress to come! If you’re interested in seeing some of the ‘play therapy’ Jackson has been doing, follow my Instagram & check out the J’s Therapies Highlight. If you’re local in the Charleston area & are looking for an Occupational therapist, we go through Coastal Therapy Services & LOVE them!