Autism refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences. There is not one autism but many types, caused by different combinations of genetic and environmental influences. Autism’s most-obvious signs tend to appear between 2 and 3 years of age. In some cases, it can be diagnosed as early as 18 months. Some developmental delays associated with autism can be identified and addressed even earlier. Each child with autism is unique. Treatments and supports that work for one may not work for another. As a result, each child’s treatment plan should follow a thorough evaluation of strengths as well as challenges.

Depending on their needs, children who have autism can receive a broad range of therapies. Typically, they include a combination of behavior therapy, speech-language therapy, occupational therapy, social skills training and sometimes feeding therapy. In addition, parents may receive training on how to work with their children at home. Ideally, parents, teachers and therapists will all work together to integrate their approaches across the child’s daily life.

Working with a pediatric physical therapist can help your child with autism to develop many skills required for daily life. Sometimes referred to as “occupational therapy,” this type of physical therapy focuses on sensory and neuromotor skills to help children become more functional and independent. Children on the autism spectrum face a range of challenges in school and daily life. If you’d like to know more about how Partners in Physical Therapy can potentially help your child on the spectrum, request a free screening.

Goals of Pediatric Therapy

A pediatric physical therapist will work with your autistic child to help them learn, grow, play and enjoy life to the fullest. On a “micro” level, occupational therapy will help your child to develop fine and gross motor tasks. At the “macro” level, the goal is to help them transition into adulthood so they can live an independent life. Sometimes therapy will just involve playful tasks such as jumping, dancing or climbing. At other times, it will focus on specific tasks like buttoning a shirt, feeding, holding a crayon or pencil correctly for writing, or getting dressed. As the parent, you’ll be given helpful guidelines and tasks to work on with your child at home. Your role in your child’s therapy is obviously even more important than that of the physical therapist.