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  • Movement Therapy In Autism An Occupational Therapy Interventional Approach Towards Gross Motor Activities

    Deepak Sundarrajan

    Occupational Therapist

    Dubai Autism Center

    Motor skills that require a child to utilize their skeletal muscles effectively. Motor skills and motor control depend upon the proper functioning of the brain, skeleton, joints, and nervous system. Most motor skills are learned in early childhood, although disabilities can affect motor skills development, Motor development is the development of action and coordination of one’s limbs, as well as the development of strength, posture control, balance, and perceptual skills. Autistic people tend to have difficulties with motor skills, including balance and coordination. Facilitation of the impaired movements or motor skills for the kids with autism in the above mentioned areas to improve their functional daily living skills, leisure, academic and play meant as movement therapy.” 


    1. PHYSICAL EXERCISE is any bodily activity that enhances or maintains physical fitness and overall health and wellness. It is performed for various reasons, including strengthening muscles and the cardiovascular system, honing athletic skills, weight loss or maintenance.
    2. BALANCE is the ability to stay upright or stay in control of body movement, and COORDINATION is the ability to move two or more body parts under control, smoothly and efficiently. There are two types of balance: static and dynamic..
    3. STRENGTH is the quality or state of being physically strong, ENDURANCE is the ability or strength to continue or last, especially despite fatigue or other adverse conditions to maintain the stamina.
    4. GAMES are a form of competitive activity or sport played according to rules that one engages in for amusement.( INDOOR AND OUTDOOR GAMES )
    5. RELAXATION is the state of being free from tension and anxiety.


    When working with a young person with autism it is important to recognise what communicative support they need to complete a task.


       Hand over hand assistance to complete the targeted response. E.g. throwing a ball or physical lifting the child up and down in a jumping motion.


       as the name suggests, a partial assist is less intense or intrusive than a full physical assist. It is minimal supportive guidance e.g. supporting the hips in a jumping motion.


      this is simply showing the child what you want her or him to do. You do not physically touch the child. For this to work the child must know how to imitate.


       Pointing, use of visual prompts. Often used with verbal direction.


      This is a direct statement of what we expect the child to do e.g. ‘Throw the ball towards the target’


       Tells child something is expected but not what e.g. ‘What next?’


      tasks performed with no prompts from the therapist



       can support most young people with autism, ranging from the use of PECS (picture exchange communication system) where young people can make choices through identifying what they want in picture to written words alone. The system can be based on a level that is appropriate to the person communication and literacy skills. The three most common being as follows

      1. Object reference (using the actual object)
      2. Symbol with words
      3. Words alone


       is different from visual due to the amount of information given and the complexity of the language. Concepts like idioms, non-literal language or generalisation can easily be misinterpreted and should be avoided. Verbal communication can be enhanced through gestures and symbols.


    1. Sports activity (Table tennis, ball throw and catch, darts, bowling, skipping rope).
    2. Gross motor Obstacle course (Motor planning).
    3. Physical exercises, Aerobic exercises (physical imitation skills, Step board exercises, jogging in a place, marching, jumping, upper limb and lower limb exercises).
    4. Endurance Training exercises (Static cycle, elliptical walker and treadmill).
    5. X-box games.
    6. Resistance training exercises (Weight training exercises with dumbbells, weighted cuffs).
    7. Dancing
    8. Yoga.
    9. Relaxation. (Calming technique after heavy physical activities )

    These are the things I’ve learned from them and there will be more in the future, for sure. Learning is a lifelong process. Luckily enough, I have teachers like them. Some people think that my job is tough and full of frustrations but I see it the other way. I’m glad and I feel blessed to be with these kids in my life. They are my great teachers and I will never stop learning from them because they are real and they never tell a lie about life.


    1. Sports activity (Football, basketball, badminton, tennis, etc…).
    2. Swimming.
    3. Horse riding.
    4. Running, brisk walking.
    5. Outdoor obstacles.
    6. Play area games (slides, climbing net, swings, and sand playing).


    1. Improves Strength, Physical Endurance to both Upper and Lower extremities.
    2. Improves Functional Gross Motor Tasks in day to day activities and cardiovascular output.
    3. Increase Praxis (Body Awareness), Eye contact towards Motor Planning, Core stability, Eye Hand coordination.
    4. Improves Postural Control and Sensory issues.
    5. Increases Vestibular Proprioceptive output, Balance & coordination Skills.
    6. Increases Spatial Awareness, Body Object awareness.
    7. Increases Interest towards the individual in performing outdoor games and group activities by following instructions from the Therapist.
    8. Improves Motivation, Self-esteem, Confidence and Interest towards play and Leisure activities.