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Occupational Therapy
What is Occupational Therapy?
How does Occupational Therapy help those with Autism?
What are some of the symptoms that betray a sensory deficit?
What is sensory integration?
What can an occupational therapist do?
What are some of the common props used to enhance sensory integration?

What is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational therapy is skilled treatment that is given to people to help them overcome a disability/disabilities that prevent them from performing either their daily tasks or the job they are skilled at, but are unable to do owing to a disability.

In children, Occupation Therapy will enable a child perform “occupations” or activities that are meaningful and relevant to age of the child such as playing with other children, interacting with elders and others in a group, observing and responding to sensory stimuli such as colours-pictures-music etc, articulation of feelings etc.

How does Occupational Therapy help those with Autism?

People with Autism have problems with communications and social interaction. The problem is often compounded by difficulties in sensory perception. They demand unusual quantities of certain types of sensations and are extremely hypersensitive to other types.

Occupational therapists work on “integrating sensory perception”, that helps the autistic to be more productive and improve contacts with people and environments.

What are some of the symptoms that betray a sensory deficit?

Auditory disturbances: Some autistic children react very differently to sound. Either overly sensitive or under sensitive. This coupled with delayed speech or language skills they are thought of as being deaf.

Tactile: Some autistic children are very sensitive to being touched, wearing a specific dress or fabric, having a hair cut, nails cut etc.,

Balancing and motor problems: Flapping hands, restless movements, Activity level that is unusually high or unusually low, physical clumsiness or apparent carelessness etc.

What is sensory integration?

Though each of our sense organs receives a certain type of stimuli, the brain processes all these to give a composite picture. This helps us to understand our body’s relation to the space around us.

For most of us, this happens automatically. In some of us this process is imperfect. So even a certain stimulus is received it is not processed effectively. Efficient sensory integration is important for almost all our learning and behaviour.

The three main aspects of sensory integration are:

Tactile, vestibular, and proprioceptive functions.

Tactile System:

The tactile system senses even a light touch, pain, temperature, and pressure. These play an important role in relating to the environment helping in understanding it and surviving in it..

A dysfunction in the tactile system can result in:

  • withdrawing when being touched. Some autistic are so sensitive to even a light touch that they shrink away avoiding the possibility.

  • wearing certain types of fabrics/clothing.

  • refusal to eat certain types of food.

  • a quest for isolation

  • easy distractibility and hyperactivity.

This type of over-stimulation in the brain can make it difficult for an individual to organize one's behavior and concentrate and may lead to a negative emotional response to touch.

Vestibular System:

The structures within the inner ear form the vestibular system. This system helps in balancing and be aware of changes in the position of the head.

Dysfunction within this system may result in:

  • either fear of climbing, sliding

  • fear of walking on uneven, unstable surfaces

  • in the other extreme, the child may actively seek very intense sensory experiences such as excessive body whirling, jumping, and/or spinning.

Proprioceptive System:

Muscles, joints, and tendons that provide a person with a subconscious awareness of body position are a part of proprioceptive system.

The proprioceptive system is responsible for:

  • Instructing the body to sit properly in a chair, walk up a stair.
  • Fine motor movements,
  • Planning and executing movements.
The child with a deficit may keep moving continuously or tire easily and may be resistant to new spaces.

What can an occupational therapist do?

  • Evaluate a child to determine if he or she has accomplished tasks appropriate to the child’s age, such as daily tasks and play skills.

  • Devise a program based on the evaluation with different kinds of props to help the child co-ordinate/improve the lagging areas.

What are some of the common props used to enhance sensory integration?

Various props are used depending on the deficit:
Oral sensory motor development can be aided by: whistles, blowers and bubble blowing kits.
Fine motor: A number of toys like cone and ball catch, puppets etc
For kids with fidgety fingers many blocks, fixes etc that help them focus.
Gross motor: Bean bags, Therabands
Vestibular and Proprioception: Swings, trampoline.
Tactile: Fabrics, brushes
Working or using these in play activities helps the children’s sensory integration.

Inputs From : Occupational Therapist at Sankalp.

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