The good news is promising research indicates intervention can help reduce many of the features of autism in affected individuals across the lifespan. No one is too old! Sensory integration and sensorimotor interventions, by a trained therapist, can foster the development of skills, reduce unwanted behaviors and promote happier and more successful individuals. Intervention that specifically looks at each individual’s needs and designs methods to aid sensory processing during skill development is the key!
Sensory differences have been found in up to 95% of individuals with an ASD and attributed to interference with performance and learning. Current theory is that the types of impairments found in ASD can only be explained as typical development gone awry. Early development altered by any cause leads to alterations in development of higher functions later on. Recent research teases out the intricacies of altered sensory processing in ASD and may explain how sensory issues may alter development, learning and function.
Sensory differences also contribute to and underlie the elevated anxiety that make learning and doing more difficult in persons with an ASD. Managing the sensory processing and aiding in organizing tasks are key to alleviating the stress, promoting optimal self regulation and diminishing unwanted behavior e.g. aggressive, oppositional or defiant behavior, and promoting better sleep patterns.
Look for therapists:
~with advanced training in Ayres Sensory Integration Theory
~who will listen to your concerns
~who have a good rapport with your child
~who realize improvements in your child’s behavior and skill sets
~who will offer you support and guidance in managing your child’s needs
Help your child by:
~Identify whether your child is an Over or Under Responder to Sensory Information
~Learn to aid him or her in meeting their Sensory Needs
~Identify which type of information they process, and which they have difficulty with: e.g. touch, movement, sound, vision
~ What do they respond to? What will they over react to?
~What calms them? (Helps get them into “calm alert” mode, the best for optimal behavior, engagement and learning.)
~ Manage the child’s behavior, recognizing that he/she is not willfully disobedient, but in need of help with sensory processing, communication, understanding what is happening and learning.
~Develop routines and activities to meet the child’s sensory needs and manage their behavior. Frequent, structured, exercise breaks; “wake up” activities and “calm down” routines for sleep may need to be formalized and routinely scheduled.
~Use of visual cues/ pictures will aid their understanding of events, learning of tasks, meeting their needs and help communication skills to develop.
Carolyn Murray-Slutsky, MS, OTR, C/NDT