Autism is a development disability that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people. It also affects the way they make sense of the environment around them. Autism can affect people in different ways, some people’s function and abilities will be more impaired than others. Some people will be able to live a relatively independent and unaffected life while others need constant support.
The three main areas of difficulty which all people with autism share are:
- Social communication - They may take what you say very literally and not understand jokes or sarcasm. They may have trouble letting you know what they need or how they feel and some may not be able to speak at all.
- Social interaction – They often find social interaction very hard. They can find it difficult to know when it is their turn to talk and when they should listen to others. They have difficulty understanding things that they have not experienced or seen. They also tend to have limited understanding of body language and facial expressions and therefore often find it hard to know how someone else is feeling.
- Social imagination - They may find it difficult to play games that need imagination. They may need help to come up with ideas for play and may be very rigid in how they want things to be. New situations can be very hard for someone with autism to cope with and they tend to find change very difficult. People with autism often have difficulty with empathy, also called ‘theory of mind’ meaning they cannot “put themselves into
someone else’s shoes” and predict / understand how that person may react to situations or how they may feel. This can often lead to them appearing blunt or rude as they do not understand how their behaviour makes others feel.
People with autism are often very sensitive to certain sensations such as touch, movement, smell and sound etc. This means that they can become overwhelmed by certain environments and situations and may cope with this by engaging in unusual behaviours such as rocking or attempting to escape the situation.
Occupational therapy can help with the diagnosis of autism and helping that person live as independently as possible and lead a healthy happy life.
How can Kate Meads Associates help?
Our occupational therapist will meet with you and your child and will ask you questions about your child’s early years i.e. how their communication developed and how they began to move and walk etc. They will also ask about day to day activities such as washing and dressing and how your child achieves those things. They may give you a sensory questionnaire to find out more about how your child reacts to daily sensations and how these may impact their mood and function. If needed, a comprehensive sensory assessment can be carried out which will identify how your child’s sensory system is affecting their function and learning. The aim of the assessment is to identify your child’s strengths and difficulties and how they prevent them from achieving their goals and engaging in daily activities.
The occupational therapist may also want to speak to your child’s school, with your permission, to gain a better understanding of how they manage at school, how they do their work and how they play with other children etc.
Our occupational therapists are also highly skilled in assessing and supporting adults with autism as well. The assessment process is largely the same however it may involve any carers or other support networks around that person as well as the person themselves.
Kate Meads Associates will produce a detailed, yet accessible report of the assessment. The report will provide a summary of your child’s abilities, how autism impacts their function and they will make a number of recommendations that might help. We aim to get the report back to you within 10 working days of the assessment.
Therapies and Treatment
All our occupational therapists are highly trained and experienced - they are passionate about providing evidence-based interventions to improve functional performance. Each treatment plan will be individual, underpinned by occupational therapy philosophy, taking a person-centred and strengths-based approach. Our ultimate aim is to help a person to achieve their goals and improve their functional performance.
Your occupational therapist will work with you and your child to understand the demands of your/their day and what they need to be able to do better or to feel more confident in. Treatments will vary depending on the specific needs of your child. Types of treatment include:-
- Development of skills with daily activities such as washing and dressing
- Sensory integration therapy aimed at reducing some of their sensory sensitivities and minimising any subsequent disruptive behaviour
- Behaviour support to help with any challenging behaviour at school or at home
- Support and training with the child’s school or carers to increase awareness of autism and support with the implementation of strategies
- Development of social skills
- Confidence and self-esteem building
- Support with transition between school settings e.g. from primary to secondary school
- Employment support
Does your child have difficulty…
- With their behaviour at school or at home?
- Communicating and socialising with others?
- Understanding social situations?
- Being overwhelmed by sensory stimulation?
Please contact one of our occupational therapists on 01264 326308 for a free “no obligation” telephone consultation to discuss your needs and find out how we may help.
View our case study about Ken, a 7 year old boy with a severe autistic spectrum disorder.