Occupational therapy, autism and tactics of self-regulation

Brian Field


Occupational Therapy, or “OT,” is frequently incorporated into autism therapy regimens to help, among other things, stimulate a balance between the body and mind that can help focus the child. For example, a child may be easily distracted while sitting in a regular classroom chair. When the chair is replaced by a large exercise ball and the child now needs to maintain his balance while sitting, the child’s mind becomes more attuned – focused in part on balancing, more aware of the environment around him, and able to concentrate and focus on other learning.

Exposure to OT and developing awareness to self-regulate one’s body and the body-mind connection can help children – and adults – focus when distracted, and energize oneself when feeling depleted. For younger children, talking about one’s body as an “engine” that’s performing slowly, or “hot/too much energy” is a good visual to use. The following are some OT tactics that can help get your child (or you) out of a “hot zone” and into a calmer physical-mental state.

“On high” at home: too much energy and running all over the house? Some ways to ground yourself are animal walking, learning a few simple yoga postures to do, stopping and taking a few deep breaths.

“On high” while at school: Animal walking around the class, or jumping up and striking yoga poses would obviously be disruptive to the other students. What can be done here are things like giving the child a small “squishy toy” also called a “fidget toy” that allows the child to manually compress/squeeze an object. Having a textured cushion is also another common tactic, and teaching the student to slowly raise and lower his body from the sides of the chair is yet another mechanism of resistance exercise that can help settle the mind. Outside, the child can swing or with a therapist engage in “heavy lifting” exercises or resistance exercises such as pushing a heavy ball or other similar object.

When your “engine” is at low energy: Chewing on crunchy snacks help stimulate the oral-motor connection and can help reinvigorate the child (try healthier fare such as carrot sticks or pretzels). Jumping in place on a mini-trampoline also works wonders and helps the joint compression so too does taking a walk.

As adults we too can benefit from these kinds of tactics to help bolster our concentration and help us at work. The key here is developing (and teaching) self-regulation so that when we feel over-excited or in a low-energy lull, we have a set of physical tactics we can use to perk up mentally and focus.



Related Articles


What is Rett syndrome?

Rett syndrome is a neurological and developmental disorder that mostly occurs in females. Infants with Rett s ..

read more

What is Fragile X?

What is Fragile X syndrome? Fragile X syndrome is the most common form of inherited mental retardation. ..

read more

What is Asperger Syndrome?

Asperger Syndrome Asperger syndrome is an autism spectrum disorder, a group of conditions that include auti ..

read more

Our Support Community


Join our free support community and connect with thousands of other families and individuals touched by ASD. Find out what’s working for others, coping strategies, and life guides from others living what you’re going through now. Click here to join for free!

Resources in Your Area

Looking for autism resources nearby? Check our listings for professionals and services that might help.

Post your services | Help out in general

Events


Pacific Rim International Conference on Disability and Diversity
Honolulu, HI - United States
Oct-09-2017 - 07:00 am
The 33nd Annual Pacific Rim International Conference on Disability and Diversity will be held on October 9-11, 2017 at Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort & ..
Go to Event site

view all events