Posted on January 19, 2023
Occupational and Speech Therapy Provide Individualized Supportive Services to Assist Children Living with Autism to Expand Their Developmental Skills
South Central Rehabilitation Services | 1002 Jefferson Street, Laurel
Autism is a neurodevelopmental condition that is characterized by a variety of challenges, such as social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, and developmental delays. According to the Centers for Disease Control, autism affects an estimated 1 in 44 children in the United States today. Because autism is on a spectrum disorder, each person with autism has a distinct set of strengths and challenges. The ways in which people with autism learn, think and problem-solve can range from highly skilled to severely challenged. Some people with autism may require significant support in their daily lives while others can function independently.
South Central Rehabilitation Services offers individualized plans of care for people with autism to expand and improve cognitive, sensory processing, developmental, self-care, physical, social, motor, speech language and social skills. Our licensed therapists in occupational therapy and speech therapy have a specialized certification and extensive training in autism.
Kelli Brogan, MSOTR/L, CAS, is a certified autism specialist in occupational therapy. Kelli’s goal is to develop an individual plan to build a person’s life skills. Kelli states, “We are all wired differently, we all have different strengths and abilities. Each person learns and retains information differently and a person living with autism is no different. Occupational therapy for someone living with autism provides a safe environment and intervention plan to develop skills and meet goals.”
For people with autism, occupational therapy often focuses on play skills, learning strategies, and self-care as well as managing sensory challenges. At South Central Rehabilitation Services, the occupational therapist will begin by evaluating the person’s current level of abilities, strengths, and motivators. This could include how the person learns, plays, cares for themselves and interacts with their environment.
Kelli explains, “We have a role in helping these children meet their sensory needs and to help these families understand their behaviors. We work together to show how to address the challenges and how to help them regulate these big emotions. We also help the families understand their children’s rights and the resources that are available. The most effective intervention for children with autism is to provide a very safe and unrestricted sensory-filled, fun, learning environment so that they can really develop these life skills.”
Along with occupational therapy, children living with autism can benefit from speech therapy. At South Central, there are speech pathologists who are certified specialists in the area of autism and can work with the occupational therapy team to meet the needs of the child.
Sherri Davis, MS, CCC-SLP, ASDCS, is an ASD Clinical Specialist at South Central Rehabilitation Services that works with patients to develop communication skills. Davis states, “Communication is one of the hallmarks of autism. If a child is not communicating effectively, either verbally or even with gestures, it is a concern. One of the things that we offer in speech therapy is to help find a way for autistic children to communicate effectively, whether that be with verbal speech, with gestures and/or pictures, through technology or devices. We can use a variety of methods because assisting a person in communicating is a priority for us.”
At South Central Rehabilitation Services, a speech therapy program begins with an evaluation by our Speech Pathologists certified in autism therapy to assess the person’s communication strengths and challenges. From this evaluation, the Speech Pathologist creates individual goals for therapy. These goals could include: using different communication methods to make requests and indicate needs, using joint attention to attend to whatever activity is being done, learning about and using figurative language, etc.
“At South Central Rehabilitation Services we have a team approach to patient care,” says Sherri. “This offers a continuity of care and we can look at different approaches to most effectively meet the patient’s goal. We firmly believe that autistic children are not broken and we do not need to fix them. They are made differently, so our goal is to teach different methods to offer support for them and their loved ones.”
The staff at South Central Rehabilitation Services has specialized certifications to help patients build or regain skills and increase independence. The goal of our staff is to provide continuity of care with a personalized approach. South Central Rehabilitation Services is located at 1002 Jefferson Street in Laurel. The program accepts most commercial insurance plans, Medicare and Medicaid. To learn more about occupational and/or speech therapy for someone living with autism, please call 601-399-0534.