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03/24/2014

Study: Lack of Social Activities Persists Throughout Childhood for Kids With Autism

RWhitney_250x350New research conducted by a group of occupational therapists provides insight into the specific social activities that challenge children and pre-teens diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). By looking at the participation rates of more than 700 children between ages 5 and 13, researchers found that children with ASD experience a lack of participation in social activities such as swimming, visiting friends, and having friends over to play, which persists throughout childhood.

Futhermore, they discovered that children’s autism symptoms impacted how frequently they spent time in social activities. The study also found that the severity of the overall symptoms of the child’s autism affects participation in household activities, errands, neighborhood and social activities, and faith-based activities.

Rondalyn Whitney, PhD, OTR/L, assistant professor of occupational therapy and interim program director of the doctoral program at University of the Sciences, and also works with children who are affected by ASD.

“Children with ASD often find themselves on the periphery of social interactions because they have had less social experiences,” said Dr. Whitney, who has organized Detective Camp and Humor Camp to aid children with ASD in social interaction and understanding humor.

“Occupational therapy practitioners work to address these social concerns so that as these children become adults, they can participate more confidently and age-appropriately in their interactions, because social deficits become more pronounced with age,” she added.

Current research by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention estimates that 1 in 88 children will be diagnosed with ASD by age 8. Social challenges among kids with ASD often cause isolation and as an increasing number of children diagnosed with ASD enter their teenage years and adulthood, occupational therapy practitioners are working to help them gain confidence in their social interactions.

Here are some examples of how occupational therapy practitioners work with children to overcome the social challenges caused by ASD:

  • Helping children build the habits of developing and maintaining friendships so that as adults, they can successfully navigate social interactions at work, at home, and in leisure activities.
  • Creating the social context and providing opportunities for children with ASD to engage in meaningful occupations that can foster friendships.
  • Engaging children in community events that offer positive outcomes.
  • Working with parents to reduce their stress level.
  • Enhancing the family’s quality of life to optimize opportunities for participation in activities that foster positive social interaction.

For more information, visit www.ajot.aotapress.net or www.aota.org.

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