Physical Therapy for Autism

February 10, 2015

Autism is a pervasive developmental disorder. This means that most people on the autism spectrum have delays in many physical areas — including gross and fine motor skills.  For example areas of difficulty include: physical coordination, running, walking, throwing, low muscle tone and all small movements involved in writing, typing, feeding and the list goes on and on.  Therefore a physical therapist is usually a key member of the child’s education team.  Let’s look at the role and benefits a certified physical therapist can have for children on the spectrum.

Depending upon the needs of the child a Physical therapist may have a child try several different types of PT both in and out of the school environment.  Dance and movement therapy, hippotherapy (therapeutic horseback riding), aquatic therapy (therapeutic swimming), recreational therapy and even play therapy are among some of the options provided by many Physical therapists.

Other roles that a PT specialist may work on include some of the following:

  • Young Children – PT may focus on basic motor skills such as sitting, rolling, standing and playing. This form of therapy is meant to be fun, social and practices muscles skills in an easy and non formal manner. Specialists may also work with parents to teach them some techniques for helping their child build muscle strength, coordination and skills.
  • Older Children – As children grow older, physical therapists are more likely to come to a child’s preschool or school. There, they may work on more sophisticated skills such as skipping, kicking, throwing and catching. These skills are not only important for physical development, but also for social engagement in sports, recess and general play. This can be done one-on-one or by having an aide assist during  gym class or support during playground play.
  • As they mature PT Specialists can continue working on physical issues such as: posture,  fitness and stamina, better coordination, body awareness, reciprocal play skills, and Functional mobility.