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April 2024
Physiotherapy and Autism


 

I've been working with autistic children for almost 7 years now. It's a small niche in physiotherapy that I'm incredibly passionate about, so I'm very excited to write this blog! 

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a collective term for 'a group of developmental disabilities characterised by persistent deficits in social communication and interaction, and by repetitive patterns of behaviour and restricted interests'. Autistic children can have many physiological conditions too. Almost 80% of ASD children have some form of physical or gross motor challenge. They're x2 more likely to experience chronic pain, x2.5 more likely to have joint hypermobility, and half of children with autism have low muscle tone

If your child has an autism diagnosis, I always recommend at least an initial assessment with a paediatric physiotherapist. Parents usually say things like: 

 * My child's always slouching and has bad posture

 * He's really tired and doesn't like to walk for more than a few minutes

 * She's really clumsy, trips over things, crashes into people and falls over lots

 * They can't play or keep up with their friends 

 * My boys walk on their tippy toes (this is called toe-walking, and we'll talk about it in a future blog!)

 * My girls shoulder blades really stick out (this is called scapular winging; we'll talk about it in a future blog). 
 

Children with ASD are all unique in their own special way, which is why physiotherapy for ASD is personalised to the child. We typically work on things like strength (typically core strength), cardiorespiratory fitness, endurance, balance, hand-eye coordination, gross motor development and range of motion activities (usually it's hypermobile arms and stiff ankles). 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We aim to improve children's independence with activities of daily living (things like eating, dressing, showering and toileting, going to school), safety when mobilising (at home and in the community), physical health and overall quality of life!

 

To give some examples of what physiotherapy sessions look like, some children learn how to play ball games (like handball, soccer, basketball and footy) so that they can go to school and play with their friends. Some meet me at the local park for bike riding practise, and some learn how to swim (during our aquatic physio sessions in the hydro pool). One of my favourites is teaching children how to climb and play on playground equipment! 

 

 

 

Development in autism can be slow, which is why any therapy intervention takes time. This is okay though, because it gives us time to connect on a personal level, making therapy so much more fun and enjoyable! 

Remember, children socialise through play. So if we can teach them how to play, they can have so many more opportunities to make friends!

 

Mitch Rawson

17th April, 2024

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