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How will I know if he needs OT?

Good evening. I will start out with thanking you for answering us parents. I have a 3 yr old on the spectrum. He hasn't been valuated as yet as it's costly and his appt at mt hope is a year from now, but he has all the signs. My question is how will I know if he needs OT? He does a lot of things on his own but potty training and dressing himself is still troublesome, but otherwise he's very independent.

Independence is the hallmark of OT and when there’s difficulty achieving this independence (as is age appropriate), OT may be useful.

As you strongly suspect your son has autism, he may have issues with sensory processing - maybe he’s sensitive to textures or sounds, or maybe he’s really active, even for a three year old. Because of possible sensory challenges, his attention could be affected - he might have a short attention span or might even be fixated on his own interests. OT helps in this instance to help improve his attention span and help develop play skills that he’ll need for school.

It’s ok to not be fully independent at potty training at 3, but if the reasons for his struggles are due to sensory issues (eg distress at the sound of the toilet flushing, not being able to tell when he has to go or has gone), then OT is definitely recommended to help determine the cause.

Similar with dressing - at 3, children are still developing this skill; however, if there are motor issues (eg weak muscles to pull up pants) or trouble following the routine of dressing, OT can help your son strengthen his muscles and learn to properly sequence tasks in order to be successful.

Other functional skills you’d want to check for are solving simple board puzzles, scribbling on paper, copying lines and starting to copy a circle, catching and kicking a ball, running, jumping, and following simple instructions.

Take a look as well at your son’s play skills. Is he limited in his interests? Does he play appropriately with toys (eg, does he drive the toy car, or spin the wheels repetitively?). Does he acknowledge other children and engage in play with them, even in a small way? (P.S. I’m not referring to electronics!) Does he play with one toy or activity for an appropriate amount of time? Or does he go from toy to toy without doing much with each? If he has limited play skills and seems unsure of what to do with toys or games, or has limited interest in these things, it would be worth getting OT input to help develop his play skills.

3 is an age for much development and change, so it’s ok to not be totally independent. However, if you suspect he has sensory, attention or motor issues, OT would be warranted to help address them.

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