What Can An OT Do For My Autistic Child?

Is your child autistic? Did their doctor recommend occupational therapy? Then you’re in the right place. Read on to find out what can an OT do for an autistic child.

What is occupational therapy?

What can an OT do for my autistic child?

Occupational therapists help autistic people using evidence informed strategies. OTs can also help to change or modify the environment to help the autistic person be as successful as possible. They will do an assessment that determine skills needing improvement and what changes should be made in the environment. Increasing independence is at the heart of most OT interventions. OTs take these areas into account when designing an intervention: physical, social, emotional, sensory, vocational and cognitive.

Source: National Autistic Society

What does an OT do?

An OT will assess the child’s skills in some or more of the following domains: fine and gross motor, activities of daily living, sensory functioning, social skills. OTs use standardized assessments. The therapist will develop an individualized treatment plan for the child. Occupational therapy sessions can take place in almost any setting (daycare, school, home, clinic or hospital). Often, OT sessions are an hour long. Some goals can being targeted in group therapy (eg.: social skills) while some need individual attention (eg.: toileting).

Most kids love OT. That is to say, OT sessions are fun and are driven by the child’s interests. In other words, knowing the child’s strengths, needs and interests is a key element in good therapy.

Child during an OT session for autistic child.

What should you consider before beginning OT?

What questions should you ask before beginning OT for your autistic child?

  1. Who will be working directly with my child?
  2. How many years they been working as a OT?
  3. Where will the services take place?
  4. How often will therapy occur?
  5. What are the goals of therapy for my child?
  6. What real-life skills will my child learn?
  7. How do you help with sensory issues?
  8. How is progress measured?

The therapist should be able to answer these questions easily. Above all, you need to feel comfortable with their style and perspective.

Source: Autism Speaks

How do you pay for OT services?

Is OT covered by insurance?

Some extended health plans have occupational therapy coverage. However, each plan is different and will have specific rules and qualifiers. You should ask your plan administrator to be sure. Also, make sure to ask when your benefit year renews to make the most of the benefits!

Does OHIP pay for OT?

The Ontario Health Insurance Plan covers OT services when it is provided through:

  • Hospitals and rehabilitation centres,
  • Family Health Teams,
  • Assertive Community Treatment Teams,
  • Community Health Centres,
  • Local Health Integration Networks (LHIN) that provide access to OT for eligible clients in their homes, schools, or long-term care facilities.

There are service limits with each of these programs. More information can be gathered from the service coordinator of the program or with the OT providing your treatment.

Source: Ontario Society of Occupational Therapists

Kids during an OT session for autistic children, playing on skateboards.

What is sensory processing?

How does an OT help with sensory processing?

Sensory processing is our body’s ability to understand the information it’s getting from the environment. Teaching sensory processing is one of the things an OT can do for an autistic child. Autistic people are often over or under sensitive to their environments. For instance, they might be very sensitive to loud noises or not appear to be hurt easily. An OT will help your child identify which strategies will help them get their sensory system working in top shape. Subsequently, the OT will teach your child to identify when to use these strategies and to do them!

Source: Harkla

What is a sensory diet?

A sensory diet is a specific routine of activities that helps regulate the child’s sensory systems. Children will run through the activities at predetermined times to help them prepare for the coming activities.

Sensory diets:

  • Restructure a student’s nervous system over time so that he is better able to tolerate sensations and situations he finds challenging/distracting
  • Regulate their alertness and increase attention span
  • Limit sensory seeking and sensory avoiding behaviours
  • Handle transitions with less stress.

Source: National Autistic Society

In conclusion, there are myriad ways that an OT can help an autistic child. At Side by Side Therapy, we work as an interdisciplinary team to combine our skillsets to achieve the maximum potential for each child. Our ABA Therapy teams work closely with the SLPs and OTs to create well balanced programs that propel the child towards their goals.

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