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Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is characterized by challenges with social skills, difficulty with speech and communication, repetitive behaviors, and sensory processing. It is important to note that not all children with sensory processing disorders have autism but most children with autism do have challenges with sensory processing. If you have concerns that your child has autism, we highly encourage speaking with your local family pediatrician to be referred for testing.
Our pediatric team of physical therapists, speech therapists, and occupational therapists are here to help you and your family through every step of your journey. We understand that a new diagnosis may be scary, its important to us that we use a collaborative approach between the therapist and your family to best serve your child.
Speech delays are one of the first most notable red flags of an autism diagnosis. Speech delays do not always mean a child has autism, however, children with autism will most likely have some degree of communication challenge. Children that have been diagnosed with autism, may display traits such as: repetitive behaviors, babble word-like sounds, repeat what another person says (echolalia), have a flat tone with their responses, struggle to appropriately respond to others in conversation, musically hum or speak, have poor eye contact, or be nonverbal without speech. Your Speech Language Pathologists or Speech Therapists will address these challenges through techniques such as improving articulation of speech, exposing your child to communication devices, sign language, teaching more creative language and expression, developing play skills, and encouraging conversational turn-taking.
Occupational Therapy will focus on developing practical and necessary skills that your child will need to increase independence. This may include incorporating goals for fine motor skills, gross motor, academic skills, behavioral interventions, sensory integration, and self-care tasks into their treatment plan. Fine motor skills are addressed as it pertains to self cares such as dressing, feeding themselves, handwriting and hand strength. In OT your child will also learn to self-regulate using sensory integration and behavioral strategies. Sensory Integration will teach your child to better understand the sensations of sound, touch, sight, taste, smell, balance, and movement so they can better self-regulate. Your OT may discuss putting your child on a “Sensory Diet” that is customized for their specific needs. Our OTs also use behavioral strategies to teach children appropriate behavior if there is an extreme resistance to change in daily activities, have unsafe social interactions, or display inappropriate behaviors.
Children with autism frequently struggle with motor skills, coordination, and posture. Physical Therapy will address your child’s needs by teaching them to acquire new motor skills, develop a more stable posture, and improve motor imitation skills, as well as increase their endurance and strength. When teaching motor planning skills, the pediatric physical therapist will teach the patient how to sequence and plan specific movements to complete a task such as climbing, jumping, swimming, riding a bike, etc. In PT your child will learn to fully participate in more meaningful routines by learning to move their bodies more skillfully, efficiently, and safely. Your PT will often will cross discipline with the Speech or Occupational Therapist to provide the best care possible for your child.
We do offer a free online screening tool for children under the age of six. We encourage all families to give this a try. Our tool will show you what milestones your child is meeting and which ones may require some extra assistance. You will also receive an email with customized activities to try at home with your child based on your screening.