Child & Family Development Child & Family Development

August 2, 2022

Autism Spectrum Disorder – How Can Physical Therapy Help?

By: Madison McClure, DPT

When a child is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), many treatment options are thrown their way. These kids are often set up with ABA, Occupational Therapy, and Speech Therapy and schedules fill up quickly. Communication, sensory integration, and social skills are often a primary concern for young children with ASD and a priority for treatment.

Frequently, a child with ASD can run, jump, and climb – they may do this all day! At first glance, gross motor skills may seem like one of their strengths! Because of this, decreased coordination and gross motor delays often go undetected and unaddressed.

Research shows that 62% of children with ASD have delays in motor development. Additionally, studies report a link between poor gross motor skills and social withdrawal. Often times, children with ASD have a hard time with imitating gross motor movements and performing skills on request. This can make it hard to interact with other children in social situations, like on the playground or at recess. We learn from playing with others, and if we have difficulties with our physical skills, our social skills may suffer because of it.

What role do physical therapists play?

Physical therapists are highly skilled when it comes to treating delays or abnormalities in movement and development.  As physical therapists, we can offer a unique perspective on assessing and treating the motor component that may come along with an ASD diagnosis.  Physical therapists can also play a role in determining how these motor deficits are contributing to the inability of a child to participate in daily activities.  Pediatric physical therapists are able to work on fun activities that can improve core and postural strength, coordination, motor planning, and gross motor skills, which include balance, running, jumping, stairs, and climbing.

If your child has a diagnosis of ASD and you are wondering if they could benefit from physical therapy, we are here to help! Schedule a phone consultation or request a motor screening with one of our Physical Therapists to learn more.

 

References:

  1. Van Naarden Braun K, Pettygrove S, et al. Evaluation of a methodology for a collaborative multiple source surveillance network for autism spectrum disorders- Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, 14 Sites, 2002. MMWR. 2007;56(SS01):29-40.
  2. Provost B, Heimerl S, Lopez B. Levels of gross and fine motor development in young children with autism spectrum disorder. Phys Occup Ther Pediatr.2007;27(3):21-36.
  3. Esposito G, Venuti P, Apicella F, Muratori F. Analysis of unsupported gait in toddlers with autismBrain Dev. 2011;33(5):367-373.
  4. Freitag CM, Kleser C, Schnieder M, von Gontard A. Quantitative assessment of neuromotor function in adolescents with high functioning autism and Asperger syndrome. J Autism Dev Disord. 2007;37:948-959.

C&FD is now offering motor and speech readiness checks!

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