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Physical Therapy for Autism

Learn how physical therapy can help a child with autism from pediatrician and child development expert Asma J. Sadiq, M.D. in this Howcast video.


Physical therapy often just called PT is provided for children who have gross motor difficulties and delays. Children with the autism spectrum diagnosis may or may not have gross motor delays or difficulties and this has to be tailored to the children who do have that particular problem. Kids with Asperger’s, which is a high functioning kind of spectrum disorder, where children have normal speech and language and cognition but have motor coordination issues still. These are the clumsy, klutzy kids who have difficulty with higher level motor functioning, so difficulty with pedaling a tricycle maybe or riding a bicycle and having just not a sense of themself in space sometimes. So they can have difficulty in boundaries or negotiating themself in group settings. This is where physical therapy would be a benefit.

Now for a while it can be provided in schools or often in combination with occupational therapy, to work in a sensory gym where they provide occupational therapies, sensory integration and physical therapy. But as kids graduate and get older, a lot of physical therapy can be incorporated into sports and into activities. A lot of it can also be done in the home. Parents can be trained to work with certain exercises, certain movements. You can combine physical therapy with massage and movement and it gradually but consistently does make a difference. For children who have delays or have difficulty in that area, physical therapy is important to intervene with as a therapeutic modality. But I think physical activity and life and movement is very important and we don't even call it physical therapy but it should be included.

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