Occupational Therapy for Children with Autism

Occupational Therapy (OT) is a profession that aims to promote health and wellbeing through daily human activities. It assists individuals to engage in everyday activities or occupations that they want and needs to do. Occupational Therapy helps children reach their maximal functional level of independence by facilitating development. When skill and strength cannot be developed or improved, Occupational Therapy offers creative solutions and alternatives for carrying out daily activities.


Autism is a complex neuron-behavioral condition that includes impairments in social interaction and developmental language and communication skills combined with rigid, repetitive behaviors. Because of the range of symptoms, this condition is now called autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a broad term used to describe a group of neurodevelopmental disorders.


Many children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) show developmental differences when they are babies—especially in their social and language skills. Because they usually sit, crawl, and walk on time, less obvious differences in the development of body gestures, pretend play, and social language often go unnoticed.

  • Repetitive behaviors like hand-flapping, rocking, jumping, or twirling.
  • Constant moving (pacing) and “hyper” behavior.
  • Fixations on certain activities or objects.
  • Specific routines or rituals (and getting upset when a routine is changed, even slightly)
  • Extreme sensitivity to touch, light, and sound

How Occupational Therapy Can Help Children with Autism

Occupational therapists (OTs) help people of all ages actively and purposefully engage in their daily lives. OTs work with each patient to assess their needs and determine the best path to develop, modify, adapt, or regain skills that are challenging because of their limitations. 

Children on the autism spectrum often present with sensory modulation difficulties or sensitivities, meaning they can have challenges processing sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, body position, and balance. This impacts a child’s ability to perform routine activities, such as brushing teeth, engaging with family at dinnertime, or participating in recess at school.

A simple task like brushing your teeth seems routine to many people, but to children with ASD, these menial tasks can be overwhelming due to their sensory challenges. Using various strategies and techniques, including a sensory-integration-based approach, OTs help the child and family identify challenges and use age-appropriate methods that teach regulation and skill acquisition and help them succeed in completion. 

An OT’s goal is to provide the child and family with the tools necessary to be successful in all environments. Caregivers often see optimal outcomes in children with ASD when there is consistency between therapy and daily routines; children can continually learn essential motor, daily living, and social skills as they develop into functioning adults.

Occupational therapists work to promote, maintain, and develop the skills needed by students to be functional in a school setting and beyond. Occupational therapists promote social behavioral: 

  • learning 
  • self-esteem
  • self-confidence 
  • independence 
  • social interaction. 

If you have a loved one who is showing some of these signs and symptoms, call us at PCA for an assessment.  Our skilled physiotherapists and occupational therapists will do an evaluation and advise on the best plan of care to keep them safe and well for as long as possible.

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