Occupational Therapy Practitioners in Action: Carl Sandburg Learning Center
Practitioners in Action:
Carl Sandburg Learning Center
Follow occupational therapists
Heather, Beverley, and Pam as they
show how occupational therapy plays a
role in autism intervention in schools.
Occupational therapy can make a difference in
the lives of children with autism. Autism is the
fastestgrowing developmental disability, with
an annual growth rate of approximately 10 to
17 percent. No matter where children may fall
on the autism spectrum, occupational therapy
practitioners support them and their families to
participate in daily routines, and promote
function when facing barriers or difficulties
typically associated with this disorder. In
schools, occupational therapy practitioners
help students with autism achieve greater
success in academic performance and social
Heather Welter, MS, OTR/L, and
Nick, a fifth grader, review a “social
story” about school. To prepare
Nick to tolerate transitions
throughout his day, the story—
through pictures and words—
rehearses the day’s events and how
he will interact with other people.
Welter displays a “visual schedule,” which helps students map out their day.
Beverley Johnson, OT/L, and Muctarr, a first grader, use the balancing swing to
develop motor skills such as balance, coordination, strength, and endurance.
net swing. The
also helps him
Johnson and Muctarr work on Muctarr’s grasp using the “Superman” technique. At
the beginning of the year, he could only do two repetitions; now he can do 10.
By verbally choosing “Choo Choo Charlie,” Muctarr expresses his needs and wants
to Johnson. This train puzzle addresses his motor and problem‐solving skills.
Welter facilitates leadership for Casey, a sixth grader, in a class stretching exercise
to prepare for their outdoor education trip the following day.
Welter monitors the seating posture, coordination, and planning skills of Isolina, a
fifth grader, as she prepares her packing list for the outdoor education trip.
Welter addresses the assistive technology needs of Leo, a fifth grader, by using a
word processor and slant board to complete a classroom assignment.
During this play activity, Pam Melamed, MA, OTR/L, engages Prasangika, a
kindergartener, in dialogue to enhance functional communication.
As a “pre‐writing” activity, Melamed
coaches Prasangika to make an ‘X’ on
the Doodle Pro, encouraging
coordination of both sides of the body
and across the body. This activity also
helps develop a preference in hand
Melamed and Christopher, a kindergartener, communicate via “picture exchange.”
Christopher chooses an activity that is meaningful to him.
Christopher threads beads on a string with help from Melamed, which
incorporates visual perception, hand‐eye coordination, and concentration.
With occupational therapy, children with
autism and related disorders are more
prepared to meet the important future
challenges of interacting with others and
succeeding in school.