Autism is not a disease or illness!

Autism is a developmental disability that affects the person’s ability to communicate and interact with the environment around them. It is a lifelong condition and it is 5 times more common in boys than in girls.

Most important thing to remember about this condition is that- Autism is not a disease or illness and it cannot be “cured”.

Autism includes wide range of symptoms; therefore, this condition is also called Autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ASD ranges in severity from a disability that can interfere with normal life to a more serious disability that may need institutional care.

Autistic children may have repetitive, peculiar body movements like rocking, pacing or hand flapping. They may also have unusual responses to people, resistance to change or aggressiveness. In some cases, children with autism may experience seizures.

Also, some autistic people may have unusually developed skills in certain areas, such as drawing, music, solving math problems, or memorizing facts.

When do the symptoms of Autism become noticeable?

Symptoms of autism usually appear during the first three years of life. Some children may show signs since birth. However, some individuals may not show symptoms until demands of the environment exceed their abilities.

What Causes Autism?

Autism runs in a family, that’s why most researchers think that certain combinations of genes are responsible for autism. However, there are many risk factors that may increase the chance of having a child with autism, like:

  • Delayed childbearing
  • Exposure of pregnant woman to certain drugs, chemicals or medical conditions. This can include the use of alcohol, conditions like diabetes and obesity and the use of ant-seizure drugs.

However, exact cause of autism is still not known. Research suggests that it may occur due to abnormalities in those parts of the brain that interpret sensory input and process language.

How Occupational therapy can help children with autism?

Occupational therapy (OT) focuses on helping people with sensory, physical or cognitive disabilities and become as independent as possible in different aspects of life. OT can help kids with disabilities improve physical, cognitive, sensory or motor skills and enhance their sense of confidence and self-esteem.

For children with autism, OT program focuses on play skills, learning strategies, and self-care. It can also help to manage sensory issues.

First, the occupational therapist evaluates kid’s level of ability by looking at how the kid:

  • Plays
  • Learns
  • Cares for themselves
  • Interacts with environment

Based on the evaluation, the therapist creates strategies that will help the child to improve his/her skills. There is no single treatment plan. But early and structured care has shown great results. It can be a combination of a variety of strategies which may include:

  • Play activities to improve communication and interaction
  • Physical activities such as doing puzzles, stringing beads to develop coordination and awareness
  • Developmental activities for self-care like brushing teeth and combing hair
  • Adaptive strategies like coping with changing environment

What are the benefits of OT in Autism?

The main goal of OT is to enable the person with autism improve the quality of life at home and at school.

Some of the skills occupational therapy may foster in autistic people can include:

  • Routine activities like dressing, brushing, bathing, toilet training and other grooming skills
  • Fine motor skills like writing, coloring or cutting with scissors
  • Gross motor skills used for walking, riding a bike or climbing stairs
  • Perceptual skills such as recognizing colors, shapes and sizes
  • Awareness about your own body
  • Coping, self-help, communication and social skills
  • With the help of OT a child with autism may be able to:
  • Learn how to focus on any task
  • Fulfill daily tasks without help
  • Develop relationships with friends and family
  • Express feelings
  • Play with peers
  • Learn how to self-regulate

What are the challenges for an autistic person in the Workplace?

People with ASD often have difficulties with social communication and interactions – verbal and nonverbal – in multiple contexts; repetitive patterns of behavior, interests or activities; difficulties finding and keeping a job; and difficulties developing and maintaining social relationships.

In order to get the job, people with ASD must compete for positions and that can be difficult for people whose social communication skills are compromised. They often have symptoms that may get in the way of managing the physical requirements of the workplace or engaging with colleagues.

What are the Employment opportunities for people with ASD?

Many major corporations, such as Microsoft, SAP and HP Enterprise/DXC Technology (HPE/DXC), have begun specifically recruiting and training employees with autism. In fact, HPE/DXC employs 58 people with autism through its Dandelion Program, which offers internships and jobs in cyber security, data analytics and software testing.

Employing people with ASD also means providing training to support their skills – and training for the organization to create an inclusive culture.

About The Author

Ms. Preethi Shankar– BOT (AIOTA Certified), RxDx.

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