Using strategies from occupational therapy in Toronto will be helpful to autistic people who often have sensory processing issues. They might exhibit poor impulse control, be unable to handle self-care tasks or show reduced awareness of social cues.
A diagnosis of autism should always guide the parent toward a multidisciplinary approach in terms of intervention and occupational therapy (OT) should definitely be on the team! Keep reading and discover some fun and useful the activities that grew out of OT.
Try these Occupational Therapy in Toronto activities:
#1 Exercises for fine motor skills
The purpose of these exercises is to strengthen the tiny muscles of the fingers and hands in general. The more often they are performed, the better the fine motor skills are going to be.
For instance, a great occupational therapy activity would be to take an ice cube tray and put cotton balls in each ice cube opening. Your child can pick up the cotton balls with his/her fingers, tweezers or tongs.
#2 Exercises for gross motor skills
As a general rule, when addressing gross motor skills try to find activities that require the child to use his/her whole body. The goal is to focus on the larger muscle groups (arms, legs, core). Building coordination, flexibility and stamina in these muscle groups is really important.
Here is a simple exercise you can try. Take balls of different sizes, colors and textures, and place them around a room. Ask the child to retrieve each ball, using different types of movement: crawling, skipping, jumping and climbing.
#3 Heavy work
Another hidden gem from the OT world is heavy work. Activities that require the usage of major muscle groups can help children develop their gross motor skills even further. Heavy work activities have been shown to be calming for many children. They help the child understand and coordinate their body. You can ask the child to push a heavy object, pull on a rope or carry various items from one point to the other.
One can push a laundry basket or a wheelbarrow filled with toys, carry a box loaded with toy cars or even engage in outdoor activities, such as digging, shoveling or raking.
#4 Sensory bins
The sensory bin remains one of the easiest and fun activities to try. Many autistic children are sensitive to certain textures so this exercise is a great way to address this issue. You provide opportunities for your child to gradually become desensitized to different textures.
You can fill several different containers with objects of various textures, including rice, beans, corn, cotton balls, and beads, asking him/her to explore each. Be creative! There are endless possibilities of what you can put into a sensory bin.
#5 Homemade play dough
Making homemade playdough isn’t only an occupational therapy activity! This activity serves not only as a teaching opportunity but it also offers a way to acquire valuable skills. This is an easy recipe to try. Once you’ve made the dough, you can use cookie cutters, kids knives or other toys to cut and make shapes.
A simple activity, it will help with sensory exploration, improvement of visual skills and direction following. Some children like adding different scents to the dough (vanilla, mint, lemon etc.).
#6 Painting with ice cubes
Take an ice cube tray and fill it with water and watercolor paint. Place in the freezer for a few hours. Give the frozen cubes to the child to use to paint. You can paint on regular paper or try coffee filters for an added sensory element.
#7 Bring nature and sorting together
Sorting and nature exploration represent two activities that many children enjoy and you can easily combine them. Just go outside and gather rocks, flowers, leaves and twigs, then ask the child to sort what you have gathered.
The game of sorting nature can also facilitate the development of problem-solving skills, expand language as well as logical thinking.
#8 Deep pressure activities
Many OTs will advocate for the use of deep pressure to calm children (and adults too!) Deep pressure can be used in children who have frequent meltdowns or tantrums, having a calming effect and offering much-needed tactile input. In all children, it is vital to ensure that you have consent before touching them. In children who are sensitive to touch, however, it must be performed gradually.
You can take a blanket and roll up the child, burrito-style, or ask him/her to lie on the floor, placing pillows on his/her body. A large ball can be used to go over the child’s body, avoiding the head area. Bear hugs and squishes are other examples!
#9 Crossing the midline
Crossing the midline is an important part of motor development, and something some autistic children struggle with. Crossing midline means being able to reach across the body (from left to right and right to left). Imagine that your body is divided down the middle with an imaginary line. Using your right hand to scratch your left thigh is an example of crossing midline.
Playing clapping games with a partner or a game of Simon says are great ways to practice crossing midline.
These are some of the activities recommended for children diagnosed with autism. If you are looking for occupational therapy in Toronto, we are more than pleased to help you out. Call us for a free consultation and we will schedule an appointment as soon as possible.