Occupational Therapy (OT)
A common characteristic of individuals with autism spectrum disorder and developmental disabilities includes restricted interests, activities, and play skills. Occupational therapy (OT) can help children with autism perform better in school and home environments and provide therapy to develop interests, activities, and play in those settings. Occupational therapists evaluate sensory, motor, cognitive, social, and communication skills of individuals with autism that are related to their participation in everyday life activities. The occupational therapy department at Empower is comprised of occupational therapists and certified occupational therapy assistants who are dedicated to providing evidence-based services for children with motor, sensory, and school-readiness disorders. Each nationally certified and state-licensed occupational therapist and certified occupational therapy assistant (COTA) provides evaluations (OTs only) and interventions (OTs and COTAs) for motor, sensory, social skills, transition, workplace, self-regulation, and eating/feeding skills deficits. Occupational therapy sessions are conducted in a one-on-one setting, in the classroom, or in collaboration with other Empower staff such as speech-language pathologists, behavior analysts, or social workers.
Occupational Therapy Treatment Plans
When creating an intervention plan, our occupational therapy (OT) practitioners evaluate children with autism using observation, parent, and teacher reports. OTs will also interview parents about their child’s relationships, eating, self-care, and daily living skills.
Setting goals is a collaborative effort with the OT, family, and any necessary team member to address the most important and pressing concerns facing the individual with autism and developmental disabilities. By collaborating with families, teachers, and other service providers, the occupational therapy clinician strives to support life and academic success. Each treatment plan for every child will follow a developmentally appropriate sequence so that children are being properly challenged without becoming frustrated.
Occupational therapists are trained in the use of sensory strategies to improve self-regulation so that children can better access their cortex and improve attention and therefore learning. We know that when a child is at their “just right” level they feel calm but alert and are better able to focus on tasks asked of them. Sensory strategies also improve behaviors as the child doesn’t switch to the “fight or flight” part of the brain as easily when their nervous system is regulated. Strategies used are proprioception, vestibular, and tactile stimulation which teaches the child appropriate ways to avoid or access sensory stimulation is a socially acceptable manner.
Our Promise to You
The Occupational Therapy Team at Empower understands the needs of families living with autism and developmental disorders. Our promise to you as a partner in your child’s treatment is that we will ensure the standards of our profession and the expectations of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA, 2018) are upheld by:
- Concentrating on the skills that are foundational to developing skills for participation in life activities for individuals across the autism spectrum at all ages
- Focusing on developing skills needed for successful transition to adulthood and on meaningful community engagement
- Providing support at any stage of life and to problem solve strategies to reduce barriers to successful community participation in meaningful activities
- Developing treatment plans that are child and family centered and based on a comprehensive assessment of the individual’s abilities
- Educating other professionals on the needs of persons with ASD and the role of OTs in managing ASD
- Referring to other professionals to rule out other conditions, determine etiology, and facilitate access to comprehensive services
- Making decisions about the management of ASD
- Participating as a member of the planning team (e.g., whose members may include teachers, special educators, counselors, psychologists) to determine appropriate educational services
- Providing treatment, documenting progress, and determining appropriate dismissal criteria
- Counseling individuals with autism spectrum disorder and developmental disabilities and their families regarding everyday life activities and providing education aimed at preventing further complications related to ASD
- Consulting and collaborating with other professionals, family members, caregivers, and others to facilitate program development and to provide supervision, evaluation, and/or expert testimony, as appropriate
- Remaining informed of research in the area of ASD and helping advance the knowledge base related to the nature and treatment of ASD
- Advocating for individuals with ASD and their families at the local, state, and national levels
- Serving as an integral member of an interdisciplinary team working with individuals with ASD and their families/caregivers and, when appropriate, considering transition planning
- Providing quality control and risk management