Avera Medical Minute AQofP: Sensory integration therapy helping children with autism gain independence

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(KSFY) - One in 68 children are living with autism in the United States. It refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication and unique strengths.

“In May of 2017, Jack was diagnosed with having autism. Basically he was diagnosed right as the last day of school was coming around -- so then we were left with summer and when he was in school, the structure of school was really good for him. But when the routine stopped, then all of a sudden the end of May, June he started having just terrible meltdowns. And he just became almost to the point of being uncontrollable,” said Rachel Giblin, mom of four-year-old Jack.

Giblin says she felt helpless.

“Our goal is to make him as independent as possible so he can participate with peers,” said Melissa Brissette, occupational therapist with Avera Therapy - Mitchell Pediatrics/Integrated Therapy Services.

Brissette sees Jack several times a week for sensory integration therapy.

“Jack has a difficult time with textures and transitions, some coordination delays and how he interprets his environment overall,” said Brissette.

Brissette provides Jack and his mom with strategies on how he can interpret his environment.

“Because he struggles with transitions greatly, we use a visual schedule so he always knows what’s coming next to decrease that anxiety. He’ll transition to the swing and the swing is used to give him an idea of where he is in space and then also it’s a calming effect. He’ll then be transitioned via a timer which gives him another sense of the auditory. What we hope for him is that he’ll be able to get dressed and if a change occurs within his daily routine, he’ll be able to adapt – really empowering him with strategies and some coping skills, some self-regulation that ‘you know what, this change happened unexpectedly but that’s okay.’ And we’ll be able to continue with our day without having severe meltdowns,” said Brissette.

“Now he’s just a whole different kid,” said Giblin.

Giblin says she now has the tools to help Jack.

“I can calm him and show him his visual pictures like first we should do this then we’ll go do this. As long as he sees a visual or has a timer, he responds really well. He has learned so much and can do things now that he never could do before,” said Giblin.

Brissette says other children who can benefit from sensory integration therapy are those with ADHD, behavior difficulties along with fine motor and visual motor difficulties.

For more information just call 877-AT-AVERA.