What is Autism?
April is Autism Awareness Month! Autism Spectrum Disorder is a broad range of conditions that involve difficulty with social skills, speech, non-verbal communication, repetitive behaviors, and sensory processing. There is no one cause for Autism. It can be influenced by a variety of factors including environmental and genetic variables. Children who present with Autism are often able to participate in community activities with the assistance of therapists and adaptations in the environment to meet their needs.
What are signs of Autism?
Signs of Autism typically appear between the ages of 2-3, but signs can also be noticed earlier. A few signs are below:
- Difficulty with eye contact/avoids eye contact
- Delayed language development
- Echolalia - repeating words/phrases
- Little or no response to their name
- Prefers to be alone
- Difficulty with transitioning between tasks/environments
- Difficulty with adapting to changes
- Repetitive behaviors
- Unusual response to certain textures, smells, sounds, etc.
What can I do to help my child with Autism?
There is no cure for Autism; however, therapies can be very helpful with providing strategies and adaptations to increase function and participation for those with Autism. The sooner one can start therapies, the better the results will be facilitating development.
What items can I try to help my child with autism?
There are a variety of items that can be tried to help those who have Autism. Talk to your therapist/s about the application of these suggestions and to get additional suggestions, specific for your child.
- Prepare a schedule: Talk to your child to prepare them for various situations. Provide a schedule that they are able to follow by using pictures. This helps your child know what is to come and can be used as a reference if they begin to have a hard time.
- Social story: These also help prepare a child and can be very useful to help with transitions and redirect when a child becomes frustrated.
- Weighted blanket: A weighted blanket can be used to provide increased input to assist with calming and increasing body awareness.
- Compression garment/tight clothing: This can be worn under clothes to provide increased input to help with attention to tasks and body awareness.
- Wiggle seat: A wiggle seat can be placed in a chair. Some children benefit from slight movements to help with focusing on tasks.
- Calming room: A quiet room with dim lights is a great place to calm down should a child become frustrated or angry. Have a designated place that the child knows they can go to and that you are able to guide the child towards during difficult times.
Can Occupational Therapy help my child with Autism?
It is appropriate that April is Occupational Therapy Month because occupational therapists assist children with a variety of daily tasks, such as sensory regulation strategies, feeding, fine motor, dressing, social skills, executive functioning, play skills, and more. As the child gets older, an OT can help with teaching activities of daily living, such as cooking, dishes, laundry, and cleaning. Our occupational therapists at TheraPLACE are always happy to help children who have Autism, whether they are very young or older and are preparing for the real world.
Can Speech Therapy help my child with Autism?
Speech is often delayed in those who have Autism. One common characteristic in those with Autism is echolalia, which is when a child continuously repeats words or phrases. A speech therapist can assist with bringing the voice out of a child. A speech therapist can also provide strategies to help a child be more comfortable with communication and expressing themselves. Furthermore, a speech therapist can provide assistance with improving social skills. Our speech therapists at TheraPLACE are experienced in working with those who have Autism to help increase their ability to communicate.
Can Physcial Therapy help my child with Autism?
Those who have Autism often have difficulty with coordination, balance, strength, and safety awareness. Kids may love to jump off of high surfaces or do rough play with others due to decreased body awareness and the desire for sensory input. A physical therapist can help a child develop the strength they need to participate in activities that require a lot of coordination and balance, such as navigating a jungle gym, playing sports, riding a bike, and participating in gym class. The physical therapists at TheraPLACE are able to determine what is limiting your child’s ability to participate in age-appropriate activities and assist with improving these areas.
What Autism resources are available in my community?
There are many Autism resources available in the Louisville, KY area. Here are a few Autism resources recommended by TheraPLACE Learning Center.
Families for Effective Autism Treatment (FEAT) of Louisville is a wonderful organization dedicated to advocating for those who have Autism. They also sponsor numerous events throughout the year for families who have members with Autism. Check out their website for additional information about the wonderful things they are doing: https://featoflouisville.org/
In addition, FEAT of Louisville has started an Autism Friendly Business Initiative to help bring awareness and acceptance for those with Autism to the community. These businesses participate in special training, at various levels, to be more prepared to serve those who have Autism. Check out the local businesses who are participating in this program below: https://featoflouisville.org/autism-friendly-community/
Those with Autism are able to participate in the community, find jobs, and have fun with friends, but they may benefit from a few adaptations. Wear blue this month to raise awareness and show support for our friends with Autism!