Occupational therapy is an activity-based therapy that focuses on developing and maintaining skills related to living an independent life. Occupational therapists empower children to engage in “occupations” or day-to-day activities.
To learn more about Occupational Therapy, check out our guide.
Occupational therapy helps autistic children develop life skills that allow them to engage and participate in meaningful activities such as play and academics. Because autistic children can often experience delays in some motor skills, have difficulty regulating emotions, and experience sensory processing differences, a qualified occupational therapist is well-equipped to support these unique needs.
Research shows that occupational therapy can improve self-help skills, motor skill development, sensory processing, nonverbal cognitive abilities, and socialization.
Many children with sensory processing differences like autism and ADHD benefit from occupational therapy. If your child experiences any of the following, ask an occupational therapist for an occupational therapy evaluation:
Delayed fine motor skills, including difficulty grasping objects, challenges with handwriting, and challenges with zipping or buttoning clothing
Impulsivity, including challenges in understanding and regulating emotional states
Challenges in visual processing and visual motor skills, such as visually tracking objects, copying/ tracing shapes and letters when writing, or locating items in a visual field, like finding a spoon in a drawer of different utensils
Sensory processing differences, such as over or under-sensitivity to various sounds, textures, smells, tastes, body position, and internal states like hunger/thirst
Delayed ability to perform self-help skills, such as feeding and dressing, by the typical age milestones
Developmental delays evident by decreased ability to reach developmental milestones by expected dates
Dysregulated body and/or emotions, including seeking or avoiding sensory input in some situations (e.g., this can look like frequent jumping or heightened anxiety in certain everyday situations)
Decreased ability to focus on tasks and directives, including academics and daily living activities
Physical therapy (PT) and occupational therapy (OT) can both help neurodivergent children lead more independent lives. Many people get the two therapies confused because they are so similar. PT focuses on improving physical movement and balance. OT focuses on improving daily functional abilities such as brushing teeth or toileting. Both can help with sensory processing challenges. Both PT and OT are typically covered by insurance.
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