Occupational therapy (OT) is concerned with an individual’s ability to participate in desired daily life tasks, or “occupations,” that give life meaning. If a person’s ability to perform life tasks is impacted by an illness, disease, and/or disability, occupational therapy can be important.
Performance areas include:
- Activities of daily living (grooming, oral hygiene, toilet hygiene, dressing – as related school performance), feeding and eating, socialization, functional communication, and functional mobility
- Work and productive activities (educational and vocational activities) and home management such as meal preparation, shopping, or clothing care
- Play or leisure activities (play or leisure exploration and play or leisure performance)
Following an evaluation of the child’s functioning, OT intervention is targeted towards those areas that are interfering with the child’s ability to function. Tasks that may be targeted include writing, improving hand-eye coordination, buttoning a shirt, tying one’s shoes, getting dressed, and feeding oneself. OT intervention with persons with autism often includes a sensory-integrative approach, which focuses on providing controlled sensory input during specific activities (see next section on Sensory Integration).
School-based occupational therapy is focused on educationally relevant goals and tied to curriculum standards. In order for school-based therapy to be effective, a consultative approach is necessary. Therapy may encompass the more traditional “pull-out”/ direct service approach, working with the student within the classroom, consulting with the parent, student and educational team to ensure that interventions and accommodations (in the home as well as in the classroom) are effective.
Areas addressed by occupational therapy may include the following:
- Fine-motor control/written output – The OT may implement a fne-motor strengthening and coordination program, and/or recommend adaptations (i.e., use of pencil grips, specially lined paper, use of keyboard, extended time, shortened work load, use of note-taker or adapted software programs).
- Visual-motor and visual-perceptual skills – Occupational therapists may also address the student’s ability to control eye movements to smoothly shift visual focus, track objects across midline, and perform the visual motor control needed to read text as well as write. Accommodations may include slant boards, copy of all work on chalkboard available at desk, paper window guided, and colored transparencies.
- Postural stability and control - Occupational therapists may address diffculties studentsmay have in maintaining effcient seating postures. Recommendations may include dynamic seating using a partially infated beach ball or camping pillow, or a Move n’ Sit Cushion.