Physiotherapists working with children in New Zealand follow a model of Family-Centred care - working in partnership with the child and family with their goals, within their home, preschool, and school environment. The approach to supporting a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) frequently involves many specialists working together in a multidisciplinary team, which can include physiotherapy. Physiotherapists have expertise in assessing motor skills and activity, strength, coordination, balance, breathing control, posture and gait. They focus on supporting a childs ability to participate in daily activities and routines e.g. strategies for developing basic movement skills, such as sitting, standing, playing, or complex skills such as kicking, throwing, catching. Limitations in motor activity in children with ASD may impact on the opportunity for social interactions and learning opportunities, and physiotherapy may help with this. Since most children with ASD can walk, it has previously been thought that they would not have benefitted from physiotherapy. However, physiotherapists can help address these motor skill challenges within the context of the childs wider daily routines.
There is a growing body of evidence related to ASD, however, evidence regarding physiotherapy and intervention continues to be limited.
Downey et al, (2012), Motor Activity in children with autism: A review of current literature,
Lang R. B. et al. (2010) Physical exercise in individuals with autism spectrum disorders: A systematic review. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders. 4(4), pp. 565-576
Mieres A. et al. (2012) Autism spectrum disorder: An emerging opportunity for physical therapy. Pediatric Physical Therapy.
Atun-Einy, O. et al (2013) Physical Therapy for young children with Autism Spectrum Disorders - Clinical frameworks model in an Israeli setting. Frontiers in Pediatics
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