Occupational therapy issues for autistics
When my child first began OT, I was told by the OT (Occupational Therapist) he “had trouble feeling his body in space.”
I thought what she meant was about my child’s ability to walk, run, skip, swim–all full body movements that typical people take for granted once they’ve learned how to walk.
My child had already learned how to walk (at age 16 months), yet he was very uncoordinated and physically awkward.
I’m very athletic, and he’s not athletically gifted.
What did I learn about him and how his autism affects his entire body?
I learned about OT and I learned about occupational therapy issues in autistics.
Turns out that OT issues were a hard-to-learn skill in many autistics.
I’ll eventually go into a full blown definition of OT, but at one point in my son’s life, I was shocked to learned just how much is encompassed in term “occupational therapy.”
And, for this post, I’m going to discuss one OT concern in particular–oral issues.
Over the years, I have seen many children on the spectrum chew on their shirts, on a toy, on something they shouldn’t have in their mouths, or simply on their fingers. There are many reasons why autistics have mouth area issues. Nervousness, over-stimulation, something just bothers them for some reason.
My child had one–on and off–for several years. It was teeth grinding.
What are some things that are helpful?
1. The Chewy T
The Chewy T is a safe-to-chew piece of plastic shaped in the letter “t.” Children with oral issues can chew on them to help them through whatever it is that is bothering them. I bit on it once, and (in my opinion) it doesn’t really taste very good. However, I have seen it help many children.
2. Dried out gummy bears
Our DTT supervisor (Discreet Trail Training-a sub-set of Applied Behavioral Analysis ABA) suggested getting some gummy bears, drying them out so that they’re hard to chew, and giving them to my son.
He chewed on dried out gummy bears for years.
The result is a calming down of whatever oral issue are happening to smooth out any behaviors.
With my child, we always had signals. We could hear his teeth grinding.
A lot of times, our kids aren’t great at telling us what’s wrong with them.
Gummy bears worked so well for my son that he used them at school. We had it written in his IEP that he could have his container of gummy bears and eat them when necessary.
This extended to some useful communication.
With gummy bears in mind, our son had to learn to communicate with his aide.
“My teeth are bothering me,” or “My mouth is bothering me,” or “I need to chew a gummy bear.”
We asked him to work on his communication so that the gummy bears were not used as treats. They were for an oral issues and only when needed.
If other kids in class commented on the gummy bears (and I don’t think this happened) then the aide would simply explain that they are needed only from time to time. They were being as a tool. A very useful tool.
For more OT strategy ideas, check out this website: http://www.kidzoccupationaltherapy.com/2011/10/07/five-practical-sensory-strategies-for-the-classroom/