Here's How Physiotherapy Helps Children With Autism & The Signs They Need It
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects a person's ability to communicate and interact with others
People with ASD often have restricted interests or repetitive behaviours, and may have different ways of learning or paying attention.
All these characteristics can make life very challenging for people with autism, especially when they are still young.
Children with autism also often experience a delay in the ability to control their body movements, known as motor skills
This is where physiotherapy and early intervention come into play. If diagnosed early, various interventions can help a child with autism achieve their full potential, and are best started as soon as possible in the first few years of life.
Paediatric physiotherapist Valerie Yentl Tan from child development centre, The Energy Source, said, typically, children with ASD may accomplish developmental milestones within anticipated timelines, such as sitting, crawling, and walking independently.
However, the quality of their movements may be immature or non-stereotypical compared to their peers.
"These early milestones are essential to get right, as they are the building blocks for children to take control of more refined and complex movements as they grow.
"Without early intervention, a child with ASD may struggle to master higher level motor skills such as skipping or riding a bicycle," she said.
Physiotherapy is important for children with ASD as it focuses on improving their ability to move their body, and ultimately, their overall health
A physiotherapist's job is to assess the child's overall motor function and create an intervention programme with customised activities to help address their difficulties or improve their skills.
Overall, physiotherapy is important to promote healthy motor development as well as improve mobility and muscle control through play-based exercises and activities.
A child with autism may benefit from physiotherapy if they show any of these signs:
– A delay in achieving gross motor milestones
– A delay in achieving balance while walking
– Experiences challenges with hand-eye and leg-eye coordination, such as when throwing, catching, or kicking a ball
– Has difficulty jumping, hopping, skipping, swinging, hanging, or climbing
– Has motor planning difficulties – is clumsy and often trips or falls
– Has low muscle tone, poor core strength, or poor posture
– Has tight muscles and joints
– Does not outgrow toe-walking
Besides physiotherapy, occupational therapy is also important in improving a child's ability to perform activities of daily living:
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