Occupational therapy takes a somewhat different approach in treating patients in that it uses both the educational, and philosophical, when working with an individual. In fact, the mission of this therapy is to help each patient overcome their obstacles by discovering what experiences, interests, and needs motivate each to want to take action to get better.
What is discovered is then incorporated into the individual's treatment plan, and used to help him meet his goals - in the hopes of the patient's eventual return, or significant improvement to, his best level of function - thereby improving his quality of life. This protocol has proven effective in helping those afflicted with certain types of neurological disorders, including autism.
In regards to the child with autism, the goal of this rehabilitative team is to help the child in mastering as many skills as possible, in ways as stress-free as possible - so he can experience the highest quality of life in an independent manner.
In every individualized case, the occupational therapist bases his particular findings on what he observes during the evaluation period. This is where the child is observed in relation to how well he performs tasks - and how he acts, and copes with stressors - when participating in age-appropriate activities in common situations.
Daily living skills such as dressing himself, brushing his teeth, or playing a game - are things studied and considered by the therapist in his evaluation. Also included are findings on interactions with other children, his attention span, and his stamina while involved in them. When the information has been gathered, a structured, specialized program is then designed for the child to encourage him in using better strategies and coping mechanisms for the situations in his daily life - including those that are especially challenging for him.
His treatment plan for improvement may include involvement in activities such as bead stringing, or working with puzzles for coordination development - and special types of game-playing for an increase in communication and social interaction. Every day activities - like cleansing himself, using the toilet and tying his shoes - are stressed to improve his overall general development, and he is taught ways to cope with transitions and changes to his routine.
Benefits to the autistic child from a successful therapy intervention can mean a marked improvement in his relationships with other peers and adults. And he may learn to focus better on the completion of tasks, along with learning to express himself more appropriately in social situations.
It is the goal of the occupational therapy profession to help a child with autism improve his overall functions and coping skills to reach his greatest potential - in every area of his life. It is the hope that he will eventually be able to live a life functioning at his highest level, as stress-free as possible. And in every case, the earlier a detailed, structured program is started and followed, the better his chances will be.