Does your child seem to have an intense focus on particular subjects while ignoring others?
Do they have difficulty making eye contact with you or others?
Have they had difficulty in their social life, struggling to make friends?
If so, these are some of the signs of autism spectrum disorder. And while a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder may be surprising and even a little overwhelming, there is hope.
With the help from pediatric therapy services like physical therapy and occupational therapy, children with autism spectrum disorder can grow up to live healthy, fulfilling, and independent lives.
Here at Little Feet Therapy, one of the pediatric therapy specialties we offer is treatment for autism spectrum disorder.
Let’s take a closer look at what exactly is autism spectrum disorder, and how we can help.
What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Autism spectrum disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder. What that means is it’s a disorder that affects the way a child’s brain develops.
In the past, a number of different disorders were considered to be separate, but more recent research has shown them all to be related, which is why they fall under the umbrella term of autism spectrum disorder. These previous disorders include:
- Asperger’s syndrome
- Autistic disorder
- Pervasive developmental disorder – not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS)
There is no cure for autism spectrum disorder, nor is there likely to ever be. Advocates in the autistic community discourage the idea of even searching for one, since they see autism as part of the spectrum of human experience, not something to be erased.
What Are The Symptoms Of Autism Spectrum Disorder?
There are a number of different symptoms of autism spectrum disorder, but they can broadly be grouped into three different categories.
Let’s take a look at each of them.
Communication And Social Issues
Autistic children often socialize differently than the rest of us. They may be introverts or extroverts at a similar level to the general population, but the way they communicate is often different.
Some of the communication related symptoms of autism spectrum disorder include:
- Difficulty making new friends
- Difficulty maintaining existing friendships
- Difficulty making eye contact
- Difficulty expressing their emotions
- Difficulty making their needs known
- Oversharing their interests
- Difficulty picking up on nonverbal conversational cues
Routine is often important in an autistic person’s life. This often manifests itself in repetitive or predictable behaviors.
Some of the behaviors they may display include:
- Repeating certain movements
- Repeating certain phrases
- Repeating certain actions
- Hyperfocusing on their interests
- Hyperfocusing on whatever activity they’re doing
In practice, this may look like being extremely fidgety, relying on what seems like stock phrases in conversation, or an intense focus on their daily routine.
Other signs of autism spectrum disorder that don’t fit into the above two categories may include:
- Lack of coordination
- Poor balance
- Delays in learning to walk
- Delays in learning to jump or skip
- Difficulty with fine motor skill control
- Difficulty mimicking the movements of others
- Poor posture
- Poor hand eye coordination
- Toe walking
- Difficulty following directions
- Intense resistance to change in schedule or routine
- Difficulty transitioning from one task to another
- Difficulty playing with toys the way they’re made to be played with, like playing catch with a ball or rolling (driving) a toy car
Signs Of Autism Spectrum Disorder In Babies
Of course, many of the symptoms you see listed above are easier to notice once your child begins speaking and socializing more actively. However, there are signs of autism disorder even in infants you can detect.
Because early intervention pediatric therapy is so important in treating the more frustrating aspects of autism spectrum disorder, it’s important to recognize these early symptoms.
- Not making eye contact
- Not making many facial expressions
- Not gesturing or pointing
- Not laughing
- Not recognizing their name
- Not following commands
- Not crying
- Decreased interest in playing with toys
How Can Pediatric Physical Therapy Treatments For Autism Spectrum Disorder Help?
Every child with autism spectrum disorder is unique, and so treatments for your autistic child will be different than how other children are treated.
Pediatric physical therapy focuses on helping children build their gross motor skills. These are the larger, broader movements of the body.
When autistic children have difficulty with things like posture, walking, running, learning to ride a bicycle, jumping, or other elements of play they used to explore the world, a pediatric physical therapist can help.
The goal is to help your child participate both at home and at school as fully as they possibly can.
Starting with a full evaluation of your child’s physical abilities, as well as their developmental history, and history of any other health issues, your child’s physical therapist will be able to put together a treatment plan designed to help your autistic child overcome their limitations and fully participate in their life.
How Can Pediatric Occupational Therapy Treatments For Autism Spectrum Disorder Help?
While pediatric physical therapy focuses on gross motor skills coordination, pediatric occupational therapy focuses more on fine motor skills. These are the skills that involve smaller movements of the body.
When autistic children have difficulty with coordination, it can cause issues with their being able to perform the activities of daily living we all need to do.
This can often look like:
- Handwriting difficulties
- Difficulty learning to tie their shoes
- Difficulty learning to button a button
- Difficulty learning to operate a zipper
- Difficulty learning to build with blocks
- Difficulty learning to type
- Difficulty catching or throwing a ball
- Difficulty with personal hygiene
- Difficulty with self care skills
- Difficulty with social skills
- Sensory processing difficulties
- And more
As well, autistic children tend to socialize differently than allistic children (allistic is the word used to refer to people who are not autistic). Occupational therapy can help by providing realistic and appropriate goals for social development and strategies to help meet those goals.
Your child’s occupational therapist will start with an in depth evaluation of your child’s abilities from a fine motor skills perspective. By understanding your child’s unique needs, they can put together a treatment plan designed to help develop their skills and improve their independence.
Does your child have autism spectrum disorder?
Or, having read some of the above symptoms, do you suspect they may? If so, we can help.
Book your appointment with Little Feet Therapy today.