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Research Article  |   September 1999
Current Practice of Occupational Therapy for Children With Autism
Author Affiliations
  • Renee Watling, MS, OTR/L, is Doctoral Student, Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Washington, Box 356490, Seattle, Washington 98195; rwatling@u.washington.edu
  • Jean Deitz, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, is Professor and Graduate Program Coordinator, Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
  • Elizabeth M. Kanny, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, is Associate Professor and Head, Division of Occupational Therapy, Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
  • John F. McLaughlin, MD, is Professor, Department of Pediatrics and Director, Clinical Training Unit Center on Human Development and Disability, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
Article Information
Autism/Autism Spectrum Disorder / Pediatric Evaluation and Intervention / Autism
Research Article   |   September 1999
Current Practice of Occupational Therapy for Children With Autism
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, September/October 1999, Vol. 53, 498-505. doi:10.5014/ajot.53.5.498
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, September/October 1999, Vol. 53, 498-505. doi:10.5014/ajot.53.5.498
Abstract

Objective. The purpose of this study was to examine the current practice patterns of occupational therapists experienced in working with children with autism spectrum disorders.

Method. Occupational therapists experienced in providing services to 2-year-old to 12-year-old children with autism completed a mail questionnaire describing practice patterns, theoretical approaches, intervention techniques, and preferred methods of preparation for work with children with autism.

Results. Of those contacted, 72 occupational therapists met the study criteria and returned completed questionnaires. Practice patterns included frequent collaboration with other professionals during assessment and intervention. Intervention services were typically provided in a one-to-one format with the most common techniques being sensory integration (99%) and positive reinforcement (93%). Theoretical approaches included sensory integration (99%), developmental (88%), and behavioral (73%). Evaluations relied heavily on nonstandardized tools and clinical observations. Educational methods identified as most helpful were weekend workshops (56%) and on-the-job training (52%).

Conclusion. This study clarified the nature of current occupational therapy practice patterns for 2-year-old to 12-year-old children with autism. Additional studies are needed to examine the efficacy of current evaluation and intervention methods, as well as to explore the relevance of available standardized assessments for this population.