What is autism?
Autism is a lifelong developmental disorder. Autism affects the way a person relates to the world around them; to the autistic individual, the world seems a mass of people, places, and objects that all seem to be able to interact intuitively (by themselves with no prompts or teaching), autism suffers find this somewhat difficult.
Autism is not a learning difficulty as such, but most autistic children present with learning difficulties.
Autistic disorders fall into what’s known as an autistic spectrum, within this spectrum all the disorders are based on three key difficulties:
- Difficulty with communication
- Difficulty with social interaction
- Difficulty with social imagination
- Asperger’s – a relatively mild form of the disorder characterised by communicative difficulties
- High-functioning autism – a disorder characterised by significant language development.
- High-functioning autism affects speech, understanding and communicative abilities.
What are the symptoms of autism?
No two people with autism will present with the same symptoms to the same degrees, every person will have a unique set of difficulties they experience within everyday life.
In general, autistic children tend to be quiet individuals who like to keep themselves to themselves; they often avoid eye contact as they prefer to stay out of conversations as opposed to getting involved. This is also characteristic due to the communication difficulties, and the anxiety if they do say something, it will be the wrong thing.
Many children with autism also have associated physical limitations, may lag behind in the achieving of developmental milestones, sometimes these difficulties are missed by parents, as they struggle to engage.
How will physiotherapy help individuals with autism?
Physiotherapy will consist of an individualised treatment programme to match the needs of the individual. It will aim to address difficulties faced in the individual’s everyday life, and seek to achieve any other goals. Physiotherapy is an interactive process that often takes time and trust for the child to engage, once completed, it is hoped the programme will have a positive impact both on physical ability and psychological wellbeing.
The physiotherapy intervention may include:
- Practice of basic movement skills, such as sitting, standing and playing
- Practice of more complex skills such as kicking, throwing and catching- these are important for physical development, but also for social engagement in sports, recess and general play.
- Techniques for helping build muscle strength, coordination and skills
- Building social/physical skills
What are the benefits of physiotherapy for people with autism?
Physiotherapy for people with autism has a number of benefits, both physical and psychological:
- Increased self confidence
- Improved interaction skills
- Improved physical skills
- Improved quality of life
- Increased ambition, and self-belief