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Adults with Autism in Occupational Therapy

Follow up to article "Using Occupational Therapy to Treat Autism" by Gregory Ruel, Portland. While first article focused on Occupational Therapy for children with autism, this article focuses on treatment for adults. Article written by Bill Wong.


“Adults with Autism and Occupational Therapy” by Bill Wong

Autism is a disability that affects individuals across the lifespan. A lot of attention on occupational therapy research studies and treatment focused on early intervention and children with autism. However, what happens when our autistic children become adults?

This is a serious question to answer because there are many autistic teenagers with aspirations to work and/or pursue postsecondary education. Unfortunately, services for autistic adults are not as available as services for autistic children. That said, occupational therapy can help autistic adults to live their lives to their fullest.

What occupational therapy can provide for autistic adults will depend on the their baseline abilities, goals for their future, motivation to improve, and the potential for them to reach their desired goals. In the first few sessions, understanding the autistic adults’ baseline and their desired goals is important because occupational therapy practitioners have to determine whether these desired goals are too hard, too easy, or just right. After that (and possibly modifying desired goals), occupational therapy practitioners will design a series of treatment sessions in order to provide their clients a realistic chance to achieve the desired goals utilizing the lifestyle redesign approach.

An example of an intervention series for autistic adults is transition to employment. In this case, occupational therapy practitioners must have a good understanding of their clients’ strengths and weaknesses and the transferrable skills they possess while having the long-term goal (in this case is employment) at the forefront. If the autistic adults already have preferences on the types of jobs they want to work in, the occupational therapy practitioners then can assist for the job application process. Occupational therapy practitioners can guide autistic adults in curriculum vitale/resume writing, cover letters, and job application forms. After the job application process starts, occupational therapy practitioners can set up mock interviews and provide feedback for autistic adults in how they respond to interview questions and body language that they should be aware of from themselves and job interviewers. Once autistic adults started working, occupational therapy practitioners can provide interventions on acceptable social communication skills at the work place, identification of possible reasonable accommodations, stress and anxiety management, medication management, and time management skills. If the jobs require autistic adults to work around their weaknesses, occupational therapy practitioners will collaborate with autistic adults on optimal ways to do so.

Autistic adults are a population with diverse needs. Occupational therapy can help. However, occupational therapy needs to visible as a possible discipline to address the needs of this population, as occupational therapy is not well-known to autistic adults who were diagnosed in the late teens or adulthood and such caregivers.

— Bill Wong

Mr. Wong has a clinical doctorate degree in OT from University of Southern California. He is currently a practicing OT in Monterey Park, California

Drawing Roads
Gregory Ruel (Portland, Maine)


 Gregory Ruel Portland
 Bill Wong
 Adult Autism
 Occupational Therapy
 Greg Ruel

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