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Occupational Therapy Equipment for Autism Programs at Saint Louis University

St. Louis
United States

The Saint Louis University Occupational Therapy (OT) Faculty Practice primarily serves children, teens, and young adults who have an autism spectrum diagnosis. Many children with an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis have sensory modulation challenges that interfere with daily routines and social and school participation. Clients meet in groups year-round for 6-7 sessions per semester. Services delivered through the practice that are directly related to this equipment request include:

Connections Program: This program serves approximately 50 children, teens, and young adults annually. Connections is a an activity-based social skills/social competency program, using age-appropriate, therapeutic, motivating, and fun interventions that focus on working with others, gaining confidence, selfadvocacy, behavior self-management, and life skills. Parent Education is integral to certain aspects of this program. The program divides the participants into four age related groups:

Kid’s Connection to Social Skills: This program addresses the needs of elementary school children. Each session incorporates sensory interventions throughout and focuses on the basic social skills required to establish friendships and work with others in home and school settings. An emphasis is placed on self control and gaining insight on what the body “needs” in order for the child to perform at his/her best in these and other settings. Suspended and other sensory equipment is utilized to achieve this goal. Larger pieces with higher weight limits allow more than one child to access equipment, encouraging more interaction throughout this motivating activity.

Tween Connection to Social Skills and Social Competency: This program is for middle school pre-teens and sessions incorporate sensory interventions throughout. An emphasis is placed on increasing self control and gaining insight into what sensory experience works for each pre-teen (sensory interventions) so that participants may self-regulate their behaviors to the sensory input from the environment. Life skills, play, and academic activities are woven into each session to practice integrating social skills into social competencies for the highest level of independence possible. Suspended and other sensory equipment is utilized to achieve this goal. Larger pieces with higher weight limits allow more than one child to access equipment, encouraging more interaction throughout this motivating activity.

Teen Connection to Social Competency: This program incorporates real community and clinic-based activities that are common for the average high school student. Group sessions include college student volunteers and combine simple social skills strategies mastered in younger years into more complicated social competencies of whole activities. As teens learn more about self-regulation and independence, natural settings are utilized to teach them how to achieve the most optimal organization for the best performance across environments. Individual and group attention is incorporated into every session. Sensory equipment may be used during group or individual sessions with participants.

OTonCampus/College Connection: This new program on Saint Louis University’s campus, offered for the first time in the Fall of 2012 provides services for the rising number of students who have autism and are entering college. Many of these students have unaddressed sensory needs and benefit from use of sensory equipment that has the weight capacity and design appropriate for an adult. As these students gain insight into their own sensory needs relative to top performance in college, independent identification of sensory needs and expected outcomes is more common. Group sessions are offered as appropriate.

The Listening Program (TLP): This program is a music listening therapy that provides engaging brain stimulation to improve performance in school, work, and life. Sensory equipment is used during these individual sessions to increase the effectiveness of the therapy as well as to educate parents and participants about addressing sensory needs in other environments.

Individual Treatment Sessions: The OT Faculty Practice provides individualized services for children who have sensory integration dysfunction, primarily children who have an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis. Suspended equipment is integral in most sessions as the therapist works with the child and the parent to encourage the highest level of performance for that child across settings. Session goals include modulation of sensory input, feeding skills, increasing attention, following directions, improvement of motor skills, and increased self-esteem among others.

Parent/Teacher/Community Education: Programs are provided to improve the lives of children, teens, and young adults who have sensory issues, primarily autism. Equipment used to teach these concepts and interventions must accommodate both children and adults.