Living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is challenging and often difficult to manage for both the individual as well as the carers of those with the condition. However, early introduction to an array of different autism therapy options, such as music, art or animal activities, can have a huge impact on the individual as well the surrounding family and friends.
Autism therapy can, and is being used to help autistic individuals understand and explore challenging symptoms of their own condition, such as meltdowns, mental health struggles, difficulties surrounding communication and the application of life skills. Autism therapy has the capability to open up new avenues and adventures that those with autism may not have had the opportunity to explore previously.
In our list of therapies, we’ve mainly focused on 3 seperate areas of occupational therapy for autism, as categorised below. They can be used independently or in combination with other types of autism therapy.
Play: building, coloring, games, puzzles, exploring, social interaction
Self Care: dressing, bathing, self-feeding, grooming, toileting, family routines
Learning: handwriting, drawing, cutting, typing, organization, attention/self regulation
Autism and Music Therapy
Music, a combination of play and learning interventions, enjoyed through over-ear headphones can be a fantastic way for those with ASD to escape sensory overload stemming from real-world exposure, in order to cope with traumatising meltdown situations. Music therapy can offer a temporary ‘escape’ for the individual while helping them to still stay connected, engaged and entertained through the creative and entertaining format of music.
This type of autism therapy was featured heavily at the heart of BBC drama, The A Word which revolves around an autistic boy, his immediate family and their day-to-day methods of coping with his condition. He uses music as a coping strategy, a form of therapy and an expression of his personality.
The medium of music is a way for them to connect and bond with their parents while helping to manage their battle with sensory overload and meltdowns. The realm of autism and music therapy seems to boundless. If you’re searching for a therapy for someone with ASD, if they show an interest in music or even sounds, trying to introduce this type of autism therapy might be a good place to start.
Art Therapy Ideas For Autism
Engaging those with autism in art projects and creative activities, such as painting, drawing, sketching or poetry, can have a real positive impact on their self expression and personal identity. For many people with autism, especially for those who are non-verbal, communication can be hard and getting others to understand you can be frustrating. Art therapy, a combination of play and learning interventions, can be a realistic way to help channel the artistic self.
Equally, when introducing someone to art therapy, it is important to incorporate their likes, however, it’s still vital to introduce a wider range of activities and materials for the individual to choose from within the therapy environment. This can help with learning decision-making capabilities and situation flexibility, skills that can be transferred to the outside world.
While this type of autism therapy is used to explore personal creativity, it can also be used as a framework to explore questions and concepts that help individuals understand their own condition and ways in which to manage it. These could relate to understanding the reason for experiencing meltdowns, certain feelings, emotions and thoughts. If you’re looking for art activity ideas or a community of people who use art as an autism therapy, then check out The Art of Autism.
Autism Therapy Dogs
Autism Therapy Dogs are slightly different to service dogs and companion dogs who can also help those with autism. Autism therapy dogs are trained to specifically recognise self-harming behaviors or help de-escalate emotional meltdowns in a number of different situations and locations.
They’re able to interrupt abnormal behaviours in the form of a calming action, such as leaning against the child (or adult) or gently laying across his or her lap. In this situation the dog is adopting the properties of a weighted blanket to help make the individual feel grounded, secure and calm.
There are so many benefits to having an autism therapy dog. They’re often able to help individuals promote positive behaviour changes, provide comfort and support for the individual and can even help reduce behavioural outbursts. As a combination of play, self care and learning interventions, having an autism therapy dog can also teach those with ASD about vital life skills such as feeding, cleaning and grooming through the care of the dog itself.
As always, when deciding whether to acquire an autism therapy dog to aid an autistic individual in your life, it’s important to consider whether you or the individual are prepared financially and emotionally for the commitment of having a dog. Equally, it’s also important to source credible breeders when searching for a therapy dog and to go through the proper official channels to ensure your dog is properly trained. It’s worth contacting disability assistance dogs charities, all accessible online. They run various schemes and working with families with autistic children & adults.
For more information about Autism therapy please visit www.sensorydirect.com
Anjanee is the founder of Sensory Direct, a business which was born out of need and necessity following their son, Ethan's, diagnosis of Autism in 2003. They design, manufacture and supply sensory products and toys, including weighted blankets, for those with autism and special needs, to schools, the NHS, occupational therapists and countless parents since their origins in 2005.