What does ‘Autism Awareness’ mean to OTs?

Got-Autism asked our guest blogger, Alex Lopiccolo what Autism Awareness means to him. He decided to team-up with fellow-OT, Elizabeth Tenace to come up with this response…

Early intervention is key to helping children on the spectrum improve their daily functional goals to interact with people and their environment. For Autism Awareness, we would like more parents to be aware of the signs and symptoms that a child on theKidsPlayTim1 Autism Spectrum may exhibit. Then parents could ask their Pediatrician to do a screening and, if needed, get testing done to get their child a diagnosis. The sooner a diagnosis is received, the faster therapy services from insurance companies may get covered.


Possible “Red Flags”…a person with ASD might:

  • Not respond to their name by 12 months of age
  • Not point at objects to show interest (point at an airplane flying over) by 14 months
  • Not play “pretend” games (pretend to “feed” a doll) by 18 months
  • Avoid eye contact and want to bealone
  • Have trouble understanding other people’s feelings or talking about their own feelings
  • Have delayed speech and language skills
  • Repeat words or phrases over and over (echolalia)
  • Give unrelated answers to questions
  • Get upset by minor changes
  • Have obsessive interests (trains, washing machines, etc.)
  • Flap their hands, rock their body, or spin in circles
  • Have unusual reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste, look or feel

Many people on the Autism Spectrum display characteristics such as the inability to socially connect with others. They may also have repetitive behaviors that disrupt their functional life. They do this when they are overstimulated, anxious, or to change their arousal level. They may lock out joints, grind their teeth, flap their hands and play with their ears. But typical people have similar behaviors too! They change their arousal level by shaking their leg, twirling their hand, stroking their beard, or chewing gum. Many people have habits or behaviors to help with concentration and cope with their anxiety.  We help people on the spectrum replace their atypical behaviors to more socially appropriate ways of meeting their needs.

Another thing that “Autism Awareness,” means to us is understanding. Often people on the spectrum as well as their families feel isolated by the diagnosis. People with ASD often All About me Family Counters1_Got-Autismhave difficulty making friends because they may not understand social nuances such as body language and “unspoken” social rules (ex: conversational turn taking, friendly teasing,  sarcasm, etc.).  Often “neuro-typical” people become uncomfortable, frustrated, or impatient with people with ASD. Their knowledge frequently comes from movies, television, and books, which often give an unrealistic portrayal of people with ASD.

By providing more information we can help people improve their understanding of people who are on the spectrum. This can be done, and is being done in a variety of ways. Depictions of people with ASD in media such as books are becoming more accurate and varied. More information is easily accessible to the general public from children’s picture books to well produced documentaries. Parents and teachers can also facilitate understanding by helping children with and without ASD talk to each other and ask questions. Steamroller

All in all we all have a little Autism in all of us. Some are more severe, some are less.  Learning how to interact with and respect people regardless of differences can help everyone make more friends.  We therapists are here to help you and your family.



Written By: Alexander Lopiccolo, COTA/L and Elizabeth Tenace MS, OTR/L

Using Computer Gaming Software as Assistive Technology

How often do you ask your child to “get off the computer and do some work” – the word ‘work’ can translate to everything from assignments to chores, exercise and even, play – actual physical activity! Here’s a new gaming software that can keep both you and your child happy – Timocco. It’s a virtual motion gaming system that is designed to isolate and develop specific movements and skills for varying levels of ability. 

Yes, it’s a computer game that turns therapy into fun!


But it isn’t only a game for fun and pleasure, it’s also a therapeutic intervention that provides a valuable and constructive supplemental aid for therapy. Just like children are encouraged to draw or paint during clinical therapy in order to improve motor accuracy even though they can do that at home, we can encourage them also to use Timocco and play a computer.

The use of a computer in therapy can help children deal with challenges and tasks that in other situations they would possibly be deterred from. Also, the computer represents a safe, known and recognizable environment that children are accustomed to and it can help to increase motivation to deal with challenges that children with special needs often face.

It’s exactly because they have a computer at home, that the computer can be a motivation tool during clinical therapy. For today’s generation, where children spend many hours in front of computer screens, using smartphones and other tech devices, the use of a computer during therapy can help a child to participate and to play.

“Also, as occupational therapists, we’re aware of the importance of therapy that is connected to meaningful everyday tasks and ׁactivities that our clients pursue. Here at Timocco, we’ve taken computer usage and turned it into something that’s productive, beneficial and progressive”, says Sarit Tresser, OT and Founder of Timocco.


Find more info about Timocco @ Got-Autism

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