Autism Spectrum Disorders
People with autism experience differences in the way they communicate socially and their behaviour can be repetitive with a narrow focus. They also frequently experience sensory differences and can often feel anxious, misunderstood and isolated.
People with autism have a wide range of characteristics and severity of their difficulties varies considerably. The breadth of this range of disorders, where similar characteristics of difficulties with social communication skills and imagination are displayed, have been collectively grouped as a ‘Spectrum Disorder’. Many autistic individuals have particular strengths, abilities and skills alongside their difficulties.
Individuals with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) may also have a learning disability, while those with Asperger’s Syndrome tend to be of average or above intelligence. Children with ASD may also have other neurological-developmental conditions such as ADHD, dyspraxia, Tourette’s or epilepsy as well. They may also have secondary mental health problems including anxiety and depression.
The child with autism might experience some social interaction difficulties with:
- understanding unwritten social rules
- understanding personal space
- social awareness and perspective taking
- avoiding others and knowing how to make friends
- understanding jokes, sarcasm or slang, or interpreting words too literally
They may also display restricted, repetitive and eccentric behaviour. Inflexibility of thought often means greater predictability in everyday routines is important. Transitions and change can be anxiety-provoking and feel threatening. Difficulties are often experienced in unfamiliar situations.
People with autism often process sensory information differently. They might be oversensitive to certain sounds, bright lights, textures, colours and tastes. On the other hand, they might have a very high threshold of pain and appear to not hear what someone is saying, nor see what someone is pointing out. They may also experience difficulties with spatial awareness and balance.
Some behaviours an individual with sensory differences may display include:
- covering ears in response to certain sounds
- jumping, spinning or crashing into people or objects
- refusing to wear certain types of clothing
- refusing to eat foods of a certain colour or texture
In addition to challenges, people with autism can often demonstrate positive attributes, skills and abilities in areas such as following instructions and abiding by rules, having an excellent memory, being direct, open and honest, loyalty and commitment to friendships, attention to detail, clear concise and accurate communication, high levels of vocabulary, good technical or mathematical skills, seeing and remembering small details, an enhanced sense of smell or taste.
Since each person with autism will have a unique profile of the strengths and challenges outlined above, support and intervention needs to be tailored to the specific needs of the individual and their family.
How can KMA help?
Our Occupational Therapist can help you to better understand your child’s unique profile of strengths and difficulties. We can undertake assessments of your child’s sensory processing and sensory integration skills, their motor skills and their ability to engage in age appropriate play, everyday activities and independence skills. We can also assist where your child with autism is having particular difficulties with their anxiety, mood or self-harm.
If your child is experiencing difficulty managing the demands of school, we can liaise with school staff or carry out a school observation (with your consent) to better understand the underlying functional difficulties for any presenting behaviour challenges.
We use a range of standardised tests and assessments which are specifically designed for use with children. Assessments can be carried out to:
- help determine medical, developmental or educational diagnosis (in co-operation with other relevant professionals)
- document developmental, functional and participation status
- plan intervention programmes
- measure progress and outcomes
Our Occupational Therapists are also highly skilled in assessing and supporting adults with autism as well. The assessment process many involve carers or other support networks as appropriate.
KMA will produce a detailed, yet accessible report of the assessment. The report will provide a summary of your child’s abilities, how autism is impacting on their function, and recommendations that may help with the challenges faced. We aim to get the report back to you within 10 working days of the assessment.
Our Occupational Therapists are highly trained and experienced in providing occupational therapy for children. We’re also 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.
Working with parents and/or teachers, goals may include:
- Development of skills in daily activities, such as washing and dressing
- Sensory integration therapy aimed at improving sensory processing, reducing sensory sensitivities and minimising accompanying disruptive behaviour
- Sensory and emotional self-regulation and anxiety management
- Strategies to help reduce challenging behaviour at school or at home
- Development of social awareness, social skills and social perspective taking
- Confidence and self-esteem building
- Support with transition between school settings e.g from primary to secondary school
- Support and training with the child’s school or carers to increase awareness of autism and support with the implementation of strategies.
Does your child have difficulty…
With their behaviour at school or at home?
Communicating and socialising with others?
Understanding social situations?
Being overwhelmed by sensory stimulation?