How can we use Ayres Sensory Integration® for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) who present unique challenges to implementing this approach? Despite the benefits of a sensory integration approach to meet core sensory needs of children with ASD, the features of ASD often present unique challenges in implementing this approach. This course investigates the sensory integration factors related to disorganization, communication, social interaction, play, and apparently “inconsistent” sensory behaviors. Strategies for each challenge are offered and related clinical reasoning considerations are clarified. This course assumes basic working knowledge of using a sensory integration approach because it focuses on specific application of this knowledge for children with ASD. The content of this course is best understood after taking my course: "Ayres Sensory Integration®: Application and Individualization for ASD," which provides a foundation for the material in this course.
Susan Spitzer is a licensed occupational therapist, author, and lecturer with expertise in sensory integration, play, and autism spectrum disorders. She has operated her own private practice clinic in Pasadena, CA for 12 years. Her highly creative and individualized approach continues to energize her practice after 20 years of experience. Previously, she directed a hospital program and worked in early intervention programs and public and private schools. She is certified in sensory integration and the Interactive Metronome®. Dr. Spitzer has taught occupational therapy courses at the University of Southern California. She is a highly respected presenter for audiences within and outside of occupational therapy. Her work radiates her passion about the benefits of occupational therapy as well as the capacity for development and potentiality in all children with developmental disabilities. Dr. Spitzer received her B.A. in psychology from Claremont McKenna College, where she conducted research on video modeling for play with children with autism and assisted in behavioral interventions. She received both her M.A. in occupational therapy and her Ph.D. in occupational science from the University of Southern California. Her doctoral research focused on understanding individual meaning in activities for children with autism. This research and training provided the foundation for her focus on using personal occupational meaning as the cornerstone for effective intervention. Dr. Spitzer’s professional endeavors have been driven by her desire to make research more accessible and relevant to practice. Currently, she is co-editing the 4th edition of the text, Autism: A Comprehensive Occupational Therapy Approach (published by the American Occupational Therapy Association). She co-authored the text book Activity Analysis, Creativity, and Playfulness in Pediatric Occupational Therapy: Making Play Just Right, as well as chapters in other books. She has written several articles in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy as well as published in the Journal of Occupational Science and the Scandinavian Journal of Occupational Therapy.
When a child with ASD is very disorganized, it can be difficult to support intrinsic motivation and internal self-direction. This chapter will identify the sensory integration factors related to this challenge and related strategies.
Differences and deficits in communication, thinking, and social abilities often compromise the interaction of the child with ASD and limit therapeutic engagement. Sometimes, these deficits can be directly addressed with a sensory integration approach and others require adaptive strategies to engage the child. Links between challenges and sensory integration as well as targeted strategies for interaction will be shown.
Play is to be included as an essential element in Ayres Sensory Integration® and yet children with ASD tend to have trouble with play. Play deficits will be related to sensory integration. Strategies will be presented for creating play experiences and skills.
Children with ASD can present with apparent inconsistencies in sensory-related behaviors. Visual processing strengths and weaknesses are incorporated within Ayres Sensory Integration®. Considerations for unexpected changes in sensory-related behaviors during the course of intervention are reviewed.
Individualizing an Ayres Sensory Integration® approach for children with ASD can be critical to its effective implementation but too much adaptation can dilute its effectiveness. This chapter guides clinicians to determine when and how to make such changes in an Ayres Sensory Integration® approach without losing the benefits of this approach.