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Understanding Autism: Motor Development Through Physical Therapy

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) refers to impaired developmental skills. Autistic children lack basic social interaction skills, exhibit restrictive-repetitive behavior patterns, and have difficulty with speech and nonverbal communication.  
There are many types of autism. It can be difficult to discern between the normal idiosyncratic aspects of a child’s personality and a clear developmental disorder. 
Parents with concerns about ASD, should have their child evaluated without delay.  Early intervention can improve outcomes. The most obvious symptoms appear from as early as 18 months to 3 years of age.
Experts still don’t know the cause. It’s important for parents to understand that autism is often a lifelong condition. Today there is no known cure. With proper treatment, many children have grown up to be self-sufficient adults.
Here’s What You Need To Know
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that here in the United States:
  • May children suffer from some form of autism: about 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls.
  • Each year, about 50,000 autistic teens will lose educational services upon reaching adulthood.
  • Approximately one third of people with autism remain nonverbal.
  • Around one third of people with autism have an intellectual disability.
No two kids on the autism spectrum are the same. And neither are treatments. Work with a doctor who has special training in understanding autism.  Pediatric neuropsychologist or neuropsychiatrist, clinical psychologist or psychiatrist, or a developmental pediatrician.
Physical, medical and mental health issues associated with autism include:
  • Balance Issues
  • Motor Planning / Lack of Coordination
  • Muscle Strength
  • Gastrointestinal (GI) Disorders,
  • Seizures,
  • Sleep Disturbances,
  • Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD),
  • Anxiety and Phobias.
Treating an autistic child may need several methods of treatments.  Including occupational, physical and speech-language therapies. The role of pediatric physical therapy is to help children who have difficulty with functional movement and poor balance.
The goal is to increase the basic motor skills such as sitting, rolling, standing and playing. No plan goes forward without the team’s input. Physicians, and other members of the autism treatment team address the concerns and goals of the family and child.  Only then, is a treatment plan developed.
The physical therapist’s treatment program will address the individual’s area of need. Most disorders are associated with low muscle tone, poor balance and motor skills.
There are also physical treatment therapies for autistic children suffering for medical disorders:
  • Treating impairments in the systems that impact motor function. Problems with respiratory control and coordination.
  • Improving posture.
  • Addressing misalignments in the musculoskeletal system. Chest wall deformities, and foot and ankle misalignments.
  • Developing fitness programs for older children with autism.
Physical therapists also become involved with rehabilitation after injuries. Helping autistic children be comfortable and competent in their bodies is the most critical aspect of their treatment.
Work with a team of pediatric doctors who are specialists in autism. Good behavioral therapy is effective, especially when it’s started as early as possible.
To learn more about physical therapy treatment programs for autism, set up a free exploratory examination with one of our doctors today.
Moriarty Physical Therapy is the premier physical therapist provider here in the Hudson Valley with centers located near you. To find out more about physical therapy or to book your first appointment with a physical therapist, visit our website at or contact Moriarty Physical Therapy at (845) 454-4137.

Schedule a FREE 15-minute Exploration Visit

Come visit one of our physical therapy clinics in New York or North Carolina and one of our Doctors of Physical Therapy will do a 15-minute consultation to see if physical therapy is right for you. In the consultation, we’ll help determine the source of pain and movement restrictions to see if you would benefit from physical therapy or might need the assistance of another healthcare professional. If so, we’ll make a referral and help speed up achieving your health goal.

You have nothing to lose; the screening is free! And if physical therapy could help you, we can perform the examination right then–even without a prescription–with Direct Access (covered by insurance).

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