April is Autism Awareness Month, and as an Occupational Therapist in Peterborough that supports children with autism and their families, it made sense that we talked about how I work with children with an autism/Aspergers/ASD/ASC diagnosis.
I’d like to start by sharing some stats with you about Autism;
- 1 in 100 people within the UK are on the autistic spectrum. However, many of these people struggle to get the diagnosis and services they need.
- 90% of autistic people also have anxiety or depression. This is often because they don’t know where to go for support, or that the therapies and support they need are not available.
- Three times as many boys as girls are diagnosed with autism. This may not be because boys are more likely to suffer with autism. Instead it is increasingly believed by experts that girls are better at masking their difficulties than boys and this leads to their autism being missed.
National Autism Awareness Month represents an excellent opportunity to not only promote autism awareness but also promote autism acceptance and draw attention to the tens of thousands of people that get their diagnosis each year.
Here at Breakthrough Therapy Solutions, we provide Occupational Therapy and specialist intervention for children with autism. We see children between the ages of 18 months and 25 years. They may have an Autism, ASD, ASC or Aspergers diagnosis. In many cases we work with children who are pre-diagnosis as their parents can see their child is struggling and they want to get the right help in place as soon as possible.
As an Occupational Therapist, when I work with pre-school and reception aged children, I use an early intervention approach. This means that I will track a child’s progress using EYFS profiles and child specific Goal Attainment Scaling, known as GAS goals. These provide parents with clear outcomes so that they can see how far their child is coming along and areas that still need improvement.
When working with autistic children, or those with similar traits, there are lots of different goals we work on with the child and their parents. For example, a goal may be to increase their attention span or to use increased eye contact. We may also work on gestures to make requests for non-verbal children, cause and effect, as well as the use of keywords such as ‘Go’, ‘More’ and ‘Again’.
Other goals for children we work with could include imaginary play skills and mark making. We work towards school readiness and provide activities using a TEACCH approach and work baskets. We integrate early academic skills such as numbers, letters, colours, sequencing and sorting which are fundamental skills.
For our older children with autism there are many goals we work towards and every programme is individualised to the child. They each have their own individual GAS goals. Many of them cover areas such as social communication, understanding emotions and emotional regulation, conversation skills, sensory regulation, listening and attention, executive functioning, visual perception and anxiety management. We use Lego Therapy, Social Communication programmes, The Listening Programme, The Alert Programme, Zones of Regulation amongst others.
In everything we do we will create a clear structure to sessions using ‘now and next’ or visuals if required. These, along with lots of sensory input, will really help to keep your child regulated and on task.
We also run a regular Lego Therapy intervention group to support children with autism, social communication difficulties and language impairments with a maximum of 6 children in a group. We are starting The Friendship Programme this summer for secondary aged children with ASD.
If your child has an autism diagnosis, or you suspect your child is autistic and want to know what an occupational therapist can do to help, please contact us now.