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April is OT Month & Autism Awareness Month

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April is OT Month & Autism Awareness Month

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 I find it appropriate that autism and occupational therapy share awareness months, considering the important role that OT can play in the lives of people with autism. As we prepare for April to begin next week, let’s kick off both OT Month and Autism Awareness Month with some resources to share about occupational therapy’s role with autism.

Before we do that, however, it’s well worth your time to read this moving piece from the New York Times about a family who found a way to communicate and interact with their son with autism with the help of Disney movies and characters. A few of my favorite quotes from that article:

“This is the crushing pain of autism. Of not being able to know your own child, to share love and laughter with him, to comfort him, to answer his questions.”

The family discovers that their son isn’t just watching Disney movies on repeat without absorbing anything. They find that he’s able to use the movies and the characters to help him make sense of the world and learn how to interact with it.

“Owen’s chosen affinity clearly opened a window to myth, fable and legend that Disney lifted and retooled, just as the Grimm Brothers did, from a vast repository of folklore. These are stories human beings have always told themselves to make their way in the world.”

Now that their son is a young adult, he continues to use Disney to connect with others. Owen even started a Disney club at his school.

“We always knew there were other autism-spectrum kids who focused intently on Disney—we’d met several, after all, over the years. But by starting this club, Owen has drawn together a roomful of them.”

The writer also speaks about the difficulties of social interactions for people with autism.

“For most of us, social interactions don’t feel so much like work. We engage instinctively, with sensations and often satisfactions freely harvested in the search itself. For Owen, much of that remains hard work…That means the world will continue to be inhospitable to him, walking about, as he does, uncertain, missing cues, his heart exposed. But he has desperately wanted to connect, to feel his life, fully, and — using his movies and the improvised tool kit we helped him build — he’s finding his footing.”

Read the New York Times article here.

The topic of social interactions for people with autism is the focus of AOTA’s newest Everyday Evidence podcast.

New research in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy (AJOT) found that children with autism are participating in fewer social activities than other children and are thereby missing out on important learning opportunities. Listen to the 3-minute podcast (or read the transcript) to find out how occupational therapy can help people with autism increase their social success.

Find more information about OTs role with people with autism here.

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  • I feel that the perception of OT community of some of their own having autism is changing in a few short years. Before I was open about my diagnosis to public, there was no positive stories exist. All I heard from others was about how grim my chances would be. Now I am glad that I am an agent of change in changing the perception for autistic OT practitioners and students. This is the kind of behind the scenes work I feel that the greater OT community should appreciate. After all, it's only getting harder for me to participate in conference every year- not because of the cost, but the ever increasing social demands for being a recognizable name in OT. That said, I will do my very best to continue to make bigger and bolder statements about how OT is an accepting profession for the autism community- no matter how difficult that path I am trying to create might be.