Live Well Wednesday

How Occupational Therapy and Autism are Related

Liz For Facebook-01

At Compass Community Health Care Center we are dedicated to providing the best health care possible. We are listening to our patients, families, and community with their health concerns and questions. Watch for #LiveWellWednesday posts each Wednesday afternoon, which focus on giving you the information and tips you need to understand current health care concerns and topics.

Today’s topic is How Occupational Therapy and Autism are Related, written by William K. Smithwickexecutive director of Kids Center for Pediatric Therapies and contributed  by Liz Legg, Compass Community Health Care Center Occupational Therapist.

In honor of April being Occupational Therapy and Autism Awareness Month, we will be highlighting the importance of occupational therapy as well as autism topics all this month during our #LiveWellWednesday posts. Be sure to check back each Wednesday in April for more information from Compass Community Health Care Center Occupational Therapist, Liz Legg.

April is Autism Awareness Month and Occupational Therapy Month. The two have more in common than the month of April.

According to the Autism Society, “Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disability; signs typically appear during early childhood and affect a person’s ability to communicate, and interact with others. ASD is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a ‘spectrum condition’ that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees.”

The causes of autism, a disorder affecting about 1 percent of the world’s population, are unknown. Autism is no respecter of race or ethnicity, however, the prevalence of males over females with ASD is 4:1. In Kentucky, the prevalence of autism is 1:258.


There are more than 500,000 children under the age of 18 with ASD in the United States today and ASD is the fastest growing developmental disorder in the U.S. ASD is progressing each year at a rate between 10 and 17 percent. In the 1970s, one child in every 2,500 was diagnosed, today one child in every 150 is diagnosed with ASD.

There is no one symptom or behavior that identifies autism and there is no one treatment that effectively treats it for those along its broad spectrum. Although children do not outgrow autism, it is treatable. The key, like most illnesses or developmental disabilities, is early diagnosis and intervention.


Varying professionals provide treatment and interventions for children with ASD. One professional that might surprise many is the occupational therapist. Occupational therapists, OT’s, ask, “What matters to you?” and not, “What is the matter with you.”

OT’s help children and adults with the “occupations” of life. For most kids that means going to school and all that entails from getting oneself dressed to all the daily activities of living and for kids that means going to school – and that includes kids with autism. For ASD kids, the focus can range from all the daily activities to very specific cognitive challenges. No two ASD kids are alike even though many share similarities.

The occupational therapist guides each autistic child to improve his or her quality of life in the home and at school with the goal of helping him or her become as independent as possible. The therapist helps introduce, maintain and improve skills so that kids with autism can function to their maximum ability.

Daily living skills such as play, coping, reading, writing, awareness of one’s body, posture, differentiation between shapes, colors, toilet training, brushing teeth and many other grooming skills are often the focus of the OT and the child with autism.

The families of autistic children need much support as do the professionals and organizations that provide their treatment.

April is Autism Awareness Month; be aware of those families around you with ASD kids. That seemingly out-of-control child at the mall may be autistic.

April is also Occupational Therapy Month, be aware of the many helping professionals like OT’s who surround all of us improving the lives of so many. Many treatment providers to autistic kids are underfunded nonprofits, consider helping them out. Through our enhanced awareness this April, look for a way to lend a helping hand to those walking a path most of us never knew existed.

For additional information on this topic check out the Autism Society or to schedule an appointment with one of our providers, please contact our office 740-355-7102.                  #LiveWellWednesday #CompassCares

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