Autism and Physical Therapy
Autism can cause deficits in a child’s physical abilities. Autism is a Spectrum Disorder, therefore it affects each child differently. A Physical Therapist will evaluate Autistic preschoolers and develop individual programs that will improve their gross motor skills. Therapists who are trained to work specifically with children on the Autism Spectrum may also incorporate Sensory Therapy activities or encourage you to pursue an Occupation Therapy evaluation.
Affected Skill Areas
Autism can affect different areas of a preschooler’s motor development. Your preschooler’s muscle strength and tone, balance, coordination, and movement abilities may need to be addressed in various levels of concentration.
Physical Therapy Activities at Home
Physical Therapy exercises look a lot like play for preschoolers but the activities have true purpose and in turn, help your child accomplish their therapeutic goals. You can help at home by incorporating fun therapy activities into your preschooler’s daily schedule. You will see improvements in your preschooler’s balance, coordination, gait and movement, and muscle strength and tone if you consistently play with therapeutic concepts in mind.
Here are a few ideas for you to try:
- Playing with a ball is a lot of fun for this age group. Kicking, dribbling, throwing and catching, even hitting it with a bat are good options. Playing ball works on all areas of gross motor skills.
- Get down on all fours and tunnel crawl! Crawling improves coordination and muscle strength.
- Riding a tricycle can be difficult for a preschooler with low strength, tone, and coordination problems. Encourage him to ride by drawing a racetrack on the driveway with sidewalk chalk.
- Try to heel-to-toe walk on a balance beam, curb, or even a tapeline. This is great for balance and coordination and may help gait problems.
- Hopscotch will encourage your child to hop on one foot, a necessary developmental milestone.
- Go outside and play on the climbing structure or swing set. Climbing works muscle strength, balance, and coordination. (Be sure to stay close when your preschooler is climbing.)
- Turn on the radio for a game of Musical Chairs. Use small chairs or stools so your preschooler has to squat to sit. This works the big muscles in the lower body.
- Play Simon Says. You can use this game to do push-ups, jumping jacks, or hop on one foot. This game makes it easy to add therapy activities since children want to do what Simon says.
Supplementing your preschooler’s physcial therapy can be fun for all. These activity ideas will appeal to your child; they will think you are just playing. In reality, you will be helping them make great strides to overcome their weaknesses in the areas of gross motor skills.
This post is part of the series: Preschool Activities for Special Needs at Home
- Helping Your Autistic Preschooler Better Manage Sensory Information
- Supplementing ABA Therapy with Autistic Preschoolers at Home
- Occupational Therapy Games for Autistic Preschoolers
- Fun Home Activities to Supplement Your Autistic Preschooler's Physical Therapy
- Help Your Autistic Preschooler Improve Speech Skills