Physical Therapy (PT) addresses problems with movement that cause functional limitations. The purpose of physical therapy is to help the child with ASD maximize his or her gross motor skills and coordination. Children with autism frequently have challenges with motor skills such as sitting, walking, running or jumping. PT can address poor muscle tone, balance and coordination.
Our physical therapists start by evaluating the developmental level and abilities of the child. Once they identify the individual’s challenges, they design activities that target those areas. PT might include assisted movement, various forms of exercise, and orthopedic equipment. Additionally, therapists will work with families and caregivers to provide intervention according to the individual’s needs. Caregivers can incorporate practice of skills developed in therapy into daily activities at home and in the community. The success of therapy depends on how much the child practices these new skills between therapy sessions.
Movement is an integral part of our social, emotional, and physical lives. Children with autism seem to not have any physical problems however that’s not true. They often cannot coordinate the myriad of movements needed to complete these interactions.
The physiotherapist may need to assess the child over multiple sessions to identify the motor impairments. During a Physical Therapy Evaluation a child’s neuromuscular and musculoskeletal systems are assessed.
The benefits of physical Therapy in autism are listed below:
- Learn to perform the ideation, sequencing, timing and execution components of motor planning.
- Improve static balance to improve motor control and attention and decrease impulsivity.
- Lay down the foundations of gross motor skills to support participation in community and peer activities.
- Calming and relaxing effect
- Reduces clumsiness
- Improve postural control to increase stability during fine motor, gross motor, and self-care activities.
- Maximize sensory processing and organization skills to put into controlled motor skills.
Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears in children in their first three years and affects them in varying degrees, according to The Autism Society.
Toe walking—when children walk on the balls of their feet as opposed to the standard heel-to-toe gait—is one physical way the disorder can manifest in children.
If the toe walking is associated with cerebral palsy, autism or other problems, treatment focuses on the underlying conditions.
Treating children with autism who toe walk could include introducing behavioral modification strategies. Toe walking…can be managed with child self-management skills— which are where we come into play. T here is a variety of physical therapy techniques that can be used to discourage toe walking. Treatments range from hands on techniques such as stretching, taping, and massage to balance activities on different surfaces or electrical stimulation to re-educate muscles.