Occupational therapists serve patients in a number of settings and capacities. One particular setting is within your own school district. You will probably meet the occupational therapist that serves your district the first time you meet to develop an IEP (Individual Education Plan) for your child with autism. An occupational therapist is almost always involved with special needs children and children with autism are no different. Here are several things that an occupational therapist might do to help your child with autism.
Learn to Dress Themselves
While an occupational therapist focuses on helping adults learn to do things that will promote their abilities to work and work better, the therapist in a school setting helps children learn skills that they will need to become more independent. One of the first major skills in life is learning how to dress oneself. If your child enters the school system at an early age and still has not learned how to dress him- or herself, then the occupational therapist will utilize special teaching tools to help your child with autism learn how to button buttons, zip zippers, tie laces and drawstrings on pants and snap snaps. As your child understands these things and can do them independently, he or she will be expected to get dressed with minimal assistance at home.
Learn Give and Take Through Play
Much of the work that adults do relies on cooperation, communication and interdependency with tasks. With special needs children, especially children with autism, these social skills are lacking to various degrees. The occupational therapist works with you and your child's teachers to create structured play that requires your child to learn give and take and communication. Even if your autistic child is nonverbal, the therapist has technological tools, like a tablet with pre-loaded communication software, that can motivate your child to "speak" and get him or her to "talk" when he or she wants or needs something. If your child is mainstreamed (i.e., spends most of his or her day in the classroom with neurotypical peers) then he or she will probably have an aide guiding him or her through classroom tasks that require interdependency and cooperation with peers to complete them.
Learning Other Daily Tasks as Needed
If there are other areas wherein your child requires assistance in learning and maintaining skills, the occupational therapist will work with your child on these tasks too. It may be anything from learning self-grooming habits to feeding oneself to learning how to use basic tools in the classroom (e.g., scissors for cutting, using glue, using crayons, etc.). In short, learning any daily tasks that will be used later in life as an adult with the expectation that he or she will be able to perform some kind of labor and live independently are at the heart of the occupational therapist's work with your autistic child.
For more information, talk to a professional like Bayonet Point Health & Rehabilitation Center.