Autism Society records most keynote and concurrent sessions at their annual conferences. You can see and hear those recordings by purchasing full online access, or individual recordings.
The primary role of the occupational therapist is to enable occupation; i.e. meaningful activities that allow an individual to function successfully within an environmental context (Christiansen & Baum, 1991). The skills involved in self-care are complex in nature and require cognition, social interaction, sensory processing, motor praxis, executive function (sequence and memory), and emotional and attentional regulation. Using a Person-Environment-Occupation-Performance Model (Law et al., 1996) the occupational therapist can assess the interrelationships of the client factors, environmental context, and performance abilities of an individual to determine the impact on occupational performance skills such as self-care skills, play, and social participation. A variety of evidence based practices may be combined to provide intervention which may address the client’s needs by remediating weaknesses in client skills, adapting or modifying the environment, or adapting and modifying the occupation. Self-care is one important occupation “that allows an individual to meet the standard for personal independence” (Fisher, 1997). The skills of eating, dressing, and toileting are the most basic of skills necessary for independence in the environment. Focusing on the development of these skills at all ages can be an important factor in the success of any individual. This is especially true for an individual with autism.
This presentation will discuss the sensory, cognitive, and motor components necessary for the acquisition of self care skills. Evidence will be presented that substantiates the relationship between the sensory processing abilities of a child with autism and the ability to learn, acquire, and become independent in self care skills. Skills will be analyzed using both developmental progression and developmental acquisitional frameworks to delineate elements of the self care process.
With a firm foundation of understanding of self care skills from many perspectives, the attendees will consider the unique and varying array of skills which an individual with autism could bring to the task of learning self care skills. Using a case study format, the attendees will examine the patterns of sensory processing which impact performance of self care and how to differentiate sensory based responses and behavioral responses frequently seen in individuals with autism. The attendees will also examine the sensory motor components of self care tasks essential for organization and completion. Finally, the presentation will include strategies for improving sensory processing, methods for adapting the environment, and methods of modifying the occupation to accommodate for the individual’s unique set of skills. During this session, the attendees will explore practical methods to respect, address, and support the sensory preferences of an individual with autism at home, school, and in the community.
Content Area: Sensory Processing
Sonia Kay, Ph.D., OTR/L
Nova Southeastern University