ASPERGERS IS A FORM OF AUTISM AND IS PART OF SOMETHING CALLED THE AUTISTIC SPECTRUM DISORDER (ASD).
Children living with aspergers experience the same collection of difficulties as people with autism, however they tend to be more independent with day to day activities and can often socialise more easily. They often have an average or higher than average level of intelligence (IQ). Occupational therapy can help to manage the symptoms of Aspergers which make it difficult to engage in a work or educational environment.
As with autism, aspergers is a development disability that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people. It also affects the way that they make sense of the environment around them.
The three main areas of difficulty which individuals with Aspergers share are:-
Social communication – usually verbal and good at communicating their basic needs e.g whether they are hungry or thirsty etc. However they can find it difficult to communicate complex needs such as how they feel and are likely to take what you say very literally and not understand jokes or sarcasm.
Social interaction – often find social interaction very hard. They may have been able to learn social rules such as knowing when it is their turn to speak and when to listen and therefore find it easier to engage in social interaction. However, as with autism, they are likely to have limited understanding of body language and facial expressions and therefore can often find it hard to know how someone else is feeling.
Social imagination – tend to need order in their lives and will often attempt to control their environment. Their play may be very organised and involve lining things up or sorting things into groups. They often find it hard 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.
Children with Aspergers often have difficulty with empathy also known as ‘theory of mind’. It means that 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.
Children with aspergers 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 attempt to cope with this by engaging in unusual behaviours such as rocking or escaping the situation.
It is common for children with aspergers to experience increased levels of anxiety. This is often a result of their lack of understanding of the world, their sensitivity to their environments and the amount of things that they must learn which comes automatically to others such as the ability to empathise.
Occupational therapy can help in the diagnosis of aspergers as well as how to help that person live as independently as possible and lead a healthy happy life after they have been given a diagnosis.
How can Kate Meads Associates help?
If you want to find out how occupational therapy can help, one of our occupational therapists will meet with you and your child. They will ask you questions about your child’s early years – 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 these things. The therapist will want to know about your child’s behaviour, how they play and interact with other children and adults. They may also 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 necessary, 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 your child manages at school, how they do their work and how they play with other children at school etc.
Our occupational therapists are also highly skilled in assessing and supporting adults with aspergers. The assessment process would be largely the same although it may involve other carers or 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 and how aspergers impacts their function and will include 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
Kate Meads Associates’ professionals are highly trained and experienced in all aspects of occupational therapy. 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 develop strategies and management techniques that will help them achieve their goals. Specific 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
Development of social skills
Anxiety management support
Support and training with the child’s school or carers to increase awareness of Aspergers and support with the implementation of strategies
Confidence and self-esteem building
Support with transition between school settings e.g from primary to secondary school
Behaviour management support at school or at home
Do you or your child have difficulty…
Coping with anxiety and stress?
Socialising with others?
Understanding social situations?
Feeling overwhelmed with sensory stimulation?