What is Physical Therapy?
Physical Therapy can play an important role in the development of a child on the Autism Spectrum. Depending on a child’s level of physical development, physical therapists will provide exercises designed to improve mobility and balance as well as basic motor functions such as sitting, rolling, standing and walking. Improving a child’s ability to play can be key to other areas of therapy, especially social engagement. A physical therapist may also teach parents how to engage their child at home with specific activities designed to promote muscle strength in the arms, legs, and core of the body, and increase their child’s coordination.
Christian K's Physical Therapy Session with Kim Keane
At the Cloverpatch School, Christian K, who has autism, is filmed in his one on one physical therapy session with Kim Keane. Ms. Keane discusses Christian's sensory needs, motor difficulties, such as walking up and down steps, and how she regularing consults with Christian's other therapists and his parents; to better communicate with and motivate Christian during their sessions as well as incorporate speech therapy into their work.
Benjamin on Exercise Ball with Mom
Benjamin is enjoying and engaging in a social game. Benjamin makes eye contact, vocalizes and smiles to let his mother know that he likes the game. Many children with autism will not make these social overtures because they are either disinterested in such social games or attracted only to the physical sensations associated with them.
Benjamin On Exercise Ball with Therapist
A therapist works with Benjamin to strengthen his stomach muscles. Benjamin's displays typical eye contact: he scans the room while he plays, checks out his surroundings, looks at his brother, and periodically gazes joyfully at his therapist as he pulls himself upright.
Nathan On Exercise Ball with Mom
Whereas Benjamin, a toddler with developmental delays but not autism, actively engages with his therapist while playing on the exercise ball, Nathan, a child on the autism spectum, does not engage with his mother at the same level. While he seems to enjoy the sensation of the ball, his eye contact is not consistent, nor clearly directed at his mother. As soon as he is given the opportunity, Nathan walks away from the interaction.
Nathan On Exercise Ball with Therapist
Unlike his typically developing brother Benjamin, Nathan, who is on the autism spectrum, does not seem to enjoy playing with his therapist on the exercise ball. He quickly disengages from this social interaction; he prefers to stare out the window at the falling snow.
Physical Therapy Case Study
Kim Keane, a physical therapist, describes the physical and motor delays sometimes associated with ASD, and how physical therapy is used to address these delays. The principles of physical therapy are illustrated in one of Ms. Keane's sessions with Christian, a child with ASD. Understanding what Christian finds motivating and rewarding is an important element of her work with him.
Physical Therapy: Ball Pit, Slide, and Basketball
As part of a physical therapy session, Josiah, a young boy with ASD practices climbing, holding, moving and balancing as part of his play in a ball pit and general playroom. In addition to improving his gross motor skills, therapy teaches Josiah how to play and interact with toys in an appropraite manner, rather than simply wandering around the room or engaging in repetitive activities.