Many people who are diagnosed with autism have difficulties with gross and fine motor skills. This may cause children to have low coordination and may prevent them from participating in sports or other physical activity. When a child’s gross motor skill impairments are too severe for occupational therapy, physical therapy may be a useful alternative. Physical therapy for autism may also help to improve some social skills.
Though physical therapy is often associated with building back body strength after injury, similar techniques can be used to help children diagnosed with autism to increase their mobility, and improve their motor skills. Therapists may work with young children affected with autism on their basic motor skills such as sitting, rolling, standing, and playing. As children grow, physical therapists often come to their school or home and work on more advanced physical activities such as running, jumping, skipping, and throwing. These activities help the physical development of a child, and also help the child become more socially involved in the physical activities on the school playground.
When visiting a child’s school, a physical therapist may pull the child out of class or assist him or her during gym class. Physical therapists may create play groups that include both children with ASD and typically developing children. The therapist will then focus on the social aspects of the physical activities and work with the two parties to build a greater understanding of each other. After gaining a better understanding of the child’s individual needs, physical therapists can recommend a number of activities and games for parents to play with their child at home.
Autism Physical therapy is usually included in early intervention programs, which are offered by school districts. It is also possible to find physical therapy through a local hospital or rehabilitation center, but the individuals at these centers may not have specific training in dealing with autism. Physical therapy is usually charged at an hourly rate, and the cost is often covered by health insurance (see financial issues). If you are a parent seeking a private therapist for your child, your best bet is to ask your child’s pediatrician for a referral, because this will allow the therapist to be covered by medical insurance.