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ASD and "Problems with Balance"

Question

My [high functioning autistic] child has great difficulty with balance – is this a normal trait or something else?

Answer

Both ASD (high-functioning autism) and Sensory Integration Dysfunction often go hand in hand. It is common to hear that a child with the disorder also has difficulty with balance and other gross motor skills, fine motor skills, and unusual tolerance (or intolerance) to sounds, lights, smells, and touch. 
 
 These complaints cause as much of a problem for children with ASD as the actual language, communication, and social weaknesses that are a direct result of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

There are therapies that address the symptoms of autism and sensory issues. However, there are activities you can do at home with your child that will help develop sensory integration. There are separate sensory systems that create a person’s sensory profile. Here is a list of these sensory areas:
 
  • Fine motor skills are necessary for grasping, writing, tying shoes, and working buttons and zippers. These skills include all physical skills related to the strength and control of the small muscles of the body.
  • Gross motor skills are necessary for walking, kicking, jumping, and coordination. These skills include all physical skills related to the strength and control of the large muscle groups of the body.
  • Proprioception is the ability to properly use the big muscles and joints of the body.
  • Tactile is the ability to properly interpret touch.
  • Vestibular is the ability to balance, body movement, and knowing where your body is in relation to space. Closely related, but not exactly sensory systems, these skill areas are often incorporated during occupational/sensory therapies.

When working with children on tne autism spectrum and sensory issues, keep in mind that many physical play activities can be adapted to your home therapy program. Sensory therapy should look like play and it should be fun. Here are some activities you can try, along with the sensory systems each activity will benefit:

Proprioceptive—

• Encourage pushing or pulling heavy weight, such as a basket of books or toys.
• Have the child jump into a foam pit or onto a padded mat.
• Have the child jump on a trampoline.

Vestibular—

• Have the child walk on a balance beam
• Push the child on a swing.

Tactile—

• Have a finger painting session.
• Mash and roll out Play-Doh.
• Play catch by tossing a textured, weighted ball.
• Use mud, pudding, or shaving cream to play in with hands and feet.

There are many books and videos that can help you develop a home play therapy plan for your child with ASD and sensory issues. One such guide is the video entitled, “Learn to Move, Move to Learn, Dinosaurs” by Jenny Clark Brack. This video is a theme-based lesson geared towards young children.

 
Resources for parents of children and teens on the autism spectrum:
 
 
 
 COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said... my 9yo runs kinda like a thunderbird and falls over quite a bit,but he learnt to ride a bike without trainers at 3 and he now races motocross.he's not brilliant but he is obsessed with it and never gives up.as for getting lost he panics if we go for a ride or drive through the forrest,even if we drive into the city we have to show him the route on a map before we go .
•    Anonymous said... my 10 yr old has trouble with balance. He runs too fast for his feet and falls alot. He does have some of the limbs flailing around but he doesn't seem to care and neither do I. As long as he is having fun thats all that matters. We are both aware that he will not be joing any professional sport teams and we are ok with that. He just runs for fun. He has not gotten the bike down yet .
•    Anonymous said... My son is 14 and rides a bike with training wheels. Seems to be hard to keep balance as well. He is clumsy and trips over his feet at times. He seems to lack the natural response to put your hands out to catch yourself when going to fall or trip.
•    Jane … Yes yes and yes...my son is like a limp noodle half of the time (and a spinning top the other half) and every day at least falls, trips, knocks something over or drops something at least once! They are klutzes, but there are medical reasons. Mine just had a behavior problem from frustration with a balancing task in gym but once I explained this, now he's going to put in a specialized gym class and getting a physical therapy eval as well! Ask about these at school, they're his right legally.

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