Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Beautiful Occupation

I’ve written in the past about the different ways to advocate for children on the Autism Spectrum. One of the most important ways is therapy. In the next couple weeks we’re going to talk about a couple types of therapies that are used to help with Autism, and why they are important.

Let me start by saying that therapy may seem like a hassle to us as parents, and sometimes it is. We’re already juggling busy schedules (most of us) and to fit in an hour or five each week is strenuous. I will say that my wife deserves all the credit for this in our household though. She is great at figuring out where we need to go, who needs to watch Kruz, who needs to take off work, and when we need to just cancel because it’s not going to work. She is awesome and I am extremely appreciative. I also appreciate my family. My mother in law usually keeps our youngest while we have to take Konner all over the mid-south. She also takes him some of the time when needed. My mother has been known to act as the back-up babysitter when needed. Without this strong support group life would be twice as hard.

That being said, let’s talk about Konner’s occupational therapy. During the school year we are fortunate that Krista Hannaman and Lynn Bain from Kistler Center in Fort Smith comes to the school and works with him. We take him to Kistler on Fridays, so he has two hours a week of OT during the school year. During the summer it’s only one hour on Fridays. Both therapists are great working with children.

In fact, I was sitting in the waiting room Friday waiting on Konner and I heard him coming down the hall yelling. I was listening and made out the words, “You’re in timeout.” He then started yelling some more and soon was quiet. I knew there was something wrong, and expected her to come out and say, “take your kid home I don’t want to mess with him today.” However, we were there the whole hour and when she came out I asked if there were some problems. She said, “He did pretty good. He broke a rule in the gym and had to go to timeout, but then he did ok.” I don’t have that kind of patience.

Some of you may be wondering, what is occupational therapy? According to the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA):

            In its simplest terms, occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants help people across the lifespan participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities (occupations). Common occupational therapy interventions include helping children with disabilities to participate fully in school and social situations, helping people recovering from injury to regain skills, and providing supports for older adults experiencing physical and cognitive changes.

Krista has been working with Konner recently on sensory issues and strengthening. She has used silly putty, iPhone app, and a Magnadoodle to help strengthen his hands and develop fine-motor skills. She also uses therapeutic music to help with “rhyme and rhythm.” They have used a ball, trampoline, and other assorted items in the gym help with sensory issues.

As I’ve written before, we were told by one “professional” a couple years back that he would probably never ride a tricycle. However, with the help of OT he can ride one and do many other things that we didn’t think he would. The sensory issues are a great example. Many of you have read about his experience with graduation.

About a year ago we took him to the drive in to watch a movie and he was loud and jumped around. He seemed to be way over stimulated. However, last night (Saturday) we took him to see Cars 2 at the same drive in. He was quiet for most of the movie. Sat on the bed of the truck and watched the whole movie (except the last few minutes because he fell asleep). I was proud of him. He had really wanted to watch the movie and did a great job of sitting there quietly (his brother was a different story).

All of this I attribute to the therapy he’s been having. Every day I see little things that keep improving. When I get frustrated with him I try to tell myself, look at how far he has come so far. He’s trying really hard.

I want to include a link from the AOTA website ( which includes some tips aimed specifically at helping children with Autism.

Disclaimer: I am in no way claiming to be an expert. I’m just a father who is trying to learn as much about Autism as I can to help my child. I hope that you all can learn from me, and I from you. I ask anyone who has questions or comments about something I have written, or autism, please contact me at I will try to answer questions as I have time, and if I find it interesting enough I may touch on it in my column.

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