UP promotes public awareness of Autism Spectrum Disorder this World Autism Awareness Day

Posted on April 01, 2023

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a lifelong condition that impacts a person’s participation in their environment.  Challenges typically experienced by people with this neurodevelopmental disorder include difficulties with social skills, communication and sensory processing.

Intensive intervention is often recommended for children after they have been diagnosed with ASD. This may include occupational and speech therapy, as well as educational and emotional intervention.  Adults may also benefit from intervention, particularly if they struggle to perform activities that are meaningful to them.

Occupation therapy with a person with ASD will focus on increasing the occupational performance (participation) of the person in daily activities the person must do, wants to do, and is expected to do within their specific context. Occupational therapists work from the understanding that increased occupational performance in meaningful activity or occupation has a positive effect on the person’s quality of life and well-being.

Occupational performance in an activity may be improved by addressing three components: the person, the environment and the activity or occupation itself. Improving the skills and abilities of the person themselves (e.g., through sensory integration therapy aimed at improving sensory processing) would better enable a person with ASD to participate in an activity.  This type of intervention is typically resource intensive. Accessing such direct services are a challenge for most children with ASD in South Africa.  Adapting the environment or the activity/occupation the person must do is another way to facilitate the person’s participation in the environment.

Adapting the environment or activity to fit the person, is a strategy that compensates or accommodates the person’s challenges. Through adapting the daily activities or the person’s environment, participation in meaningful activities may be increased.  The design of sensory friendly classrooms, clothing, or ASD friendly shops are examples of how the environment can be adapted to increase the participation of people with ASD. Communicating with the people in their environment is a very important activity/occupation for everyone, none less so for people with ASD.  As communication partners, we can adapt our own communication to make it easier for a person with ASD to understand us and to react appropriately.  Examples of strategies of how we can do this is to keep the language we use simple and concrete, as well as giving the person ample time to respond.  One should avoid long, complex instructions and rather break tasks into short steps that are easier to comprehend and follow.

This year on Autism Awareness Day we should think about ways to accommodate people with ASD in our daily contexts by adapting our environments and our communication to be accommodating and inclusive to persons with ASD.



- Author Dr Karin van Niekerk

Copyright © University of Pretoria 2023. All rights reserved.

COVID-19 Corona Virus South African Resource Portal

To contact the University during the COVID-19 lockdown, please send an email to [email protected]

FAQ's Email Us Virtual Campus Share Cookie Preferences