Hi everyone! This week we are here to bring you insight on another way Physical Therapy can help children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Like we discussed last week, many people do not know how PT can help individuals within the ASD community. Well, we are here to tell you just how we can help (PART 2)! Not every individual within the ASD community has motor difficulties, but some individuals within the ASD community need a little bit of help to overcome different motor challenges that may be preventing them from flourishing as their best selves!

Some children with ASD love to move move move! While movement may just be something they love love love to do, sometimes they may be moving without stopping because they have trouble STOPPING their own body movement. Just like we discussed last week, this is often related to postural control as well. Postural control affects their balance and one’s ability to keep their body stable in one place for a given period of time. If your child has difficulty with postural control, it may cause them to stand up and then sit down, and then stand up again, in rapid succession. They may also be more inclined to run than walk OR when they are walking, their steps may be ALL over the hallway, like they are losing their balance. Like we talked about last week, these are both strategies kids may use to keep themselves from falling, because believe it or not, moving SLOWLY takes so much CONTROL of the body. Slowing down may be too much work for your child’s body so it is easier for them to move fast OR just to keep moving in general, because then they are less likely to fall. 

On the other hand, sometimes children with ASD have trouble starting new movements. This may happen when they are doing something like walking from standing still, reaching for an object from standing still, or transitioning from walking on a flat surface to walking up the stairs. It may seem like your child is refusing to move or refusing to do something hard, like climbing the stairs, when in reality they may be stalling because their brain is having trouble telling their body to GO! We in the PT world call this idea “movement initiation” and most of us take our own easy ability to initiate different movements for granted. Children who have trouble with movement initiation try very hard to start a movement, but sometimes it takes a bit OR they need some outside help to do it. This “outside help” is referring to things outside their brain, and some examples of this would be rainbow stripes on steps giving a visual cue to walk OR a song with a good beat, giving a sound cue to keep on moving! 

The goal of physical therapy in either of these realms is to generate either more postural control or easier movement initiation. How does PT do this, you ask? By making new neural connections in the brain and central nervous system which then inform the rest of the body. By making these changes in the brain and body, both processes of postural control and movement initiation become automatic processes. This way, your child does not have to think about it too hard and their body will do it automatically. This will let your child do other important tasks, like learning in school, eating a meal, or climbing the stairs, without their brain and body having to work so hard. By making these processes automatic, they can move with greater ease and freedom!

If any of these descriptions sound like your child, call us at KidPT today for a free Discovery Visit, where we can discuss if physical therapy is the right fit for your child and why!

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