Saturday, May 22, 2010

Autism Sensory Integration - Why Does a Child With Autism Need Physical Therapy?

There are many reasons a child with Autism may need physical therapy. Physical therapy helps develop strength, develop balance, possibly provides sensory integration, and for many children is just plain fun. Physical therapists have well defined goals for the work they do with a child though.
Children with Autism are sometimes tight, sometimes floppy, and sometimes a combination of the two. Most parents see this in their child's trunk or core of their body. It later is evident in their arms and legs but we see it first in their body.
A babies body strengthens from the inside or core to the limbs. It is a similar process for a child with Autism to develop strength in the right areas. It is also a similar pattern to develop flexibility if that is part of the problem
Physical therapists work with large muscles. They can uniquely work with a child with a disability to help develop flexibility or strength. Physical therapists can manipulate your child's body. They also can help parents problem solve situations at home or in other environments parents go with their child.
Some of our children with Autism walk on their tip toes and could work with a physical therapist on this issue. Other children have problems with balance when they walk and somewhere someone will suggest physical therapy. The physical therapist can work with our children on going up and down stairs.
Usually an occupational therapist is the person to go to for help with sensory integration. Occasionally a physical therapist is interested in sensory integration issues and will provide a unique perspective. When looking for this type of therapy for a child with any disability you have to ask for sensory integration specifically. There are some teams that work on sensory integration that include physical therapists.
As parents it is just easier when our child likes to go to therapy. Some children with Autism are sensitive to touch and the therapist will have to work out those issues first. After that our children seem to like it though.
My child would also come out of the session tired. They had worked and played hard. Physical therapists may also give you 'homework' to do with your child between sessions.
Since parents want to see their child use skills over a variety of settings it is always a good idea to at least try the homework. Siblings and grandparents were always a good source of hands to try some of this homework.
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Mylinda Elliott is the parent of five children. The third of the five has Autism which was diagnosed early on. The fourth of the five children has Aspergers. She is a self taught expert on Autism Spectrum Disorders. Mylinda Elliott has also worked professionally in the disability world for the past fifteen years. She is considered the "Go To" woman for advice or resources on disabilities.

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