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Autism Spectrum Disorder

Liane Norman
March 17, 2021
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In 2012, Hilton, Zhang et al. concluded that motor impairment constitutes a core characteristic of ASD. These motor impairments can be directly linked to some distinctive behavior patterns that the ASD child will adopt. Some of those behaviors are adopted in order for the brain to function in a world where they are expected to have automatic functions related to movement.  

When we think of autism spectrum disorder, we typically think of difficulties with social interaction and communication. Lack of eye contact, difficulty understanding body language and facial cues are related to the sensory system we call proprioception which tells our brain where our body is in space and what it is doing. This is where physiotherapy can play a role.  

Motor impairments children with autism may experience include low muscle tone, difficulty with coordination, gait deviations such as toe walking, retained primitive reflexes, and more. These challenges can further impact a child’s difficulty in socializing with their peers since a young child’s main form of socialization is through play. If a child’s gross motor development is behind that of their peers, it can be challenging to keep up with them during games and sports, which reinforces the cycle of difficult socialization. Thus, it is important to give children with ASD ample opportunity to develop their gross motor development.

Physiotherapists use their knowledge of the body and play-based strategies to help children with ASD improve their gross motor development in a way that is fun and unique to them. It is important to make physio sessions enjoyable, so that children will want to engage in physical activity throughout their lifetimes. We have many creative ways to help improve your child’s core strength and muscle tone. This can help improve coordination skills of their extremities and can reduce repetitive movements often seen in ASD. We address specific issues your child may be experiencing such as toe walking or other gait deviations, pain,posture, retained primitive reflexes, etc. We also assist children learn new motor skills that will be beneficial to them in school, play and extra-curriculars, such as throwing and catching, kicking a ball and jumping.

Autism spectrum disorder has many facets and there are a variety of health professionals that can help address certain symptoms that your child may experience. Physiotherapy is only one piece of the puzzle – albeit an important one to improve your child’s motor development, confidence and overall quality of life.

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