Benefits of Recreation Therapy for Individuals with Autism

Recreation Therapy is an intervention that utilizes recreation and leisure activities as a tool to improve cognitive, physical, social, and emotional wellbeing in both adults and children.  Recreation therapy applies the fundamentals of learning utilizing play and adapts specific interventions to allow an individual to work on set goals in the medical setting. 

For the purposes of this essay, we will be discussing individuals with autism and how they can benefit from recreation therapy interventions.  Autism is a spectrum disorder meaning that symptoms can vary in severity. 

Symptoms of Autism could be:

Difficulty with communication.  Communication could range from being completely non-verbal, having difficulty sharing emotions or difficulty engaging in conversations.  Individuals with autism may have difficulty with eye contact and other social norms in terms of body language.  They also may lack empathy and have difficulty understanding social cues from others.

Sensory fixations or aversions.  Individuals with autism may often use repetitive movements or motions that are “self-soothing” to them. They may become fixated on objects or specific sensory input and be unable to engage with others.  The individual may become easily overstimulated by the sensory input in their environment and be unable to function within social norms. 

Maintaining a set routine.  An individual with autism must maintain a set routine to remain comfortable.  Transitioning between activities or event can be challenging at times and an individual with autism may need time to prepare for the transition. 

Obsessions and interests.  Someone diagnosed with autism may have highly focused interests.  An example of this can be found in the Netflix series “Atypical”.  The teen with autism is obsessed with Penguins.  These special interests are especially useful in Recreation Therapy Interventions.

Recreation Therapy Interventions:

When discussing goals and interventions it is important to collect various interests and triggers from the family and/or other healthcare providers, so we can set the individual that will be worked with up for success.  It is important to know that we can use the interest in the intervention itself or as a reward for attempting a new task or activity. 

All goals and interventions should be adapted to the functioning level and interests ofthe individual.  There are many games and activities that can be adapted to encourage improved social skills, communication, impulse control, motor skills, self-esteem, and improved activities of daily living.  Further developing these skills allows for increase independence and quality of life. 

For more information, please visit http://therapeuticconceptsllc.com and visit our online store at https://shoptailoredtoys.com/.  Consultations are always free.

Starr Caruthers, CTRS

Starr Caruthers is a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Therapeutic Recreation and Minor in Psychology from Grand Valley State University in 2005. Starr has 13 years of experience working as a mental health professional in various settings in Southeast Michigan.

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