Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can affect a child’s ability to communicate, play, and participate in family and school activities. According to the Autism Society, it is estimated that one out of 59 children is diagnosed with ASD in the U.S. The difficulties ASD children face may differ, but they can all find help through rehabilitation therapy. At Fairview Range, a team of rehab specialists can improve everyday life for children with ASD.
Signs of Autism
Autism comes in many forms. Symptoms typically include difficulties interacting with others, such as not listening when called, poor eye contact, and not understanding the feelings of others. It can also arise as repetitive movements and speech, not reacting well to changes in situations, and obsessive tendencies. These examples barely scratch the surface of signs and symptoms, but one very early sign is not cooing or babbling around the one-year mark.
If you have any concerns or questions about the signs of autism, talk to your provider. Your provider will know which symptoms to look for. If your child is on the spectrum, they will also help you determine if seeing a rehab therapist is the right decision and give you a referral. From there, you and your child will meet with a therapist to assess your child's individual needs.
At the first appointment, a therapist will conduct an hour-long evaluation. This may just look like playing to you, but they are checking and testing your child for responses and interaction abilities. At Fairview Range, pediatric rehab therapy is a collaborative effort. Between occupational therapist Michelle Engbretson, speech-language pathologist Mackenzie Thorstenson, physical therapist Kimberly Gustafson, and physical therapist assistant Sandra Tornow, a care plan will be built to help your child address and overcome difficulties. Depending on your child’s needs, either one or all the therapists will spend time with them.
“One of the reasons occupational therapy might be a good choice for your child is because of the little disruptions in everyday life,” says Engbretson. “Maybe the kiddo can’t tolerate sitting through dinner or taking a bath. Our team can help them accomplish things that make participating in simple, everyday activities easier.”
Every person is unique. Every case of autism is unique, too. How the therapists work with each child varies on a case-by-case basis.
“We work with a wide variety of kids on the spectrum. From nonverbal to higher functioning, we build an individual plan for each individual kid,” explains Thorstenson.
The therapists will include parents in all their planning and decision-making. They will also show parents ways to work on specific skills at home. Together or apart, all three areas of therapy can benefit children.
When children meet with the physical therapist and/or occupational therapist they will often work on gross and fine motor skills. This can include learning to run, jump, and move in correct motor patterns, use scissors and tie shoes and perform self-care skills like toilet training. It really comes down to their age and looking at where they are having difficulties. For some, therapy can be spent working on coping skills. How can the team help each child transition better or prevent a meltdown? Another large learning component is play.
“With any case, I ask, ‘What occupation do they need to do?’ When it comes to kids, the first answer is always play,” states Engbretson. “It’s how they learn and grow. By helping them to play, you pave a path to a whole other level of learning and participating.”
Human beings are social, and learning to socialize and interact with others can be difficult for those on the spectrum. Addressing these difficulties with early intervention can make a big impact. It can help them better communicate with family, friends, and at school.
A Family Affair
It is vitally important to consider the family situation when working with children that may struggle to meet the demands of daily tasks. Throughout the entire rehab process, Fairview’s team strives to include the family. Each child is on their own journey and therapy is individualized to meet those needs.
“I really like involving parents and showing them how they can support their child's ability to interact and communicate with others,” says Thorstenson. “I help guide them on how they can embed intervention supports and strategies in a variety of everyday activities and routines at home to help foster social engagement."
To learn more about Fairview Range’s therapy services, call 218-362-6605.