Treating Autism: Discover how occupational therapy can help

Mastering daily routines for greater independence

Occupational therapy helps people of all ages do the tasks and activities of everyday life better. The goal is to give them more independence and improve their quality of life. You might envision a person who has physical limitations and wonder, “How does it apply to kids with autism?”

That’s a great question and one we hope to answer in this article that rounds out our blog series exploring the top three autism treatments.

Occupational therapy (OT) joins ABA therapy – the gold standard in autism care – and speech therapy as the three most common interventions or treatments for children with autism. They all have similar goals and share areas of focus. And because of that, a doctor may recommend more than one treatment or a combination of treatments. It really all depends on the unique needs of your child.

If your child needs more than one type of autism treatment, the key to success is ensuring all the different therapists work together for the best outcomes for your child and family.

So, let’s briefly explore what OT is and how it helps children with autism.


Overcoming challenges in everyday life

According to the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), “occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants focus on the things you want and need to do in your daily life. Occupational therapy intervention uses everyday life activities to promote health, well-being, and your ability to participate in the important activities in your life. This includes any meaningful activity that a person wants to accomplish, including taking care of yourself and your family, working, volunteering, going to school, among many others.”

For kiddos with autism, OT can focus on a range of activities, from toileting, bathing, and dressing, to writing and coloring to balance, strength, and coordination, to sensory modulation and safety awareness. In general, the focus is most often on helping them develop better play skills, learning strategies, and self-care.


OT starts with an evaluation of your child

Like ABA and speech therapy, getting OT for your child starts with an evaluation of their strengths and areas for improvement. It will also take into account the personal and family goals you have might have as a parent. The evaluation can include standardized testing as well as skilled observation by an occupational therapist or pediatric occupational therapist.


Findings from your child’s evaluation will be used to create a therapy plan. It should spell out goals for your child as well as recommendations on how often your child should receive OT. It’s common for a child with autism to receive therapy one or two times a week, lasting 30 to 60 minutes for each session.


Your child can receive OT at home, in school, and in a clinical setting. While OT is free in school based on state laws governing special education, most insurance plans cover OT if your doctor has said it is a medically necessary treatment for your child.


Strategies used in occupational therapy

There are several strategies occupational therapists can draw from to help a child with autism. Obviously, the strategies that are ultimately used will depend on the goals for your child. The strategies include:

  • Teaching children new skills or helping them improve skills they haven’t mastered yet
  • Making changes to a task or the environment to make an activity easier for a child to do, including using adaptive equipment
  • Changing routines or expectations of a task to remove a barrier altogether
  • Practicing in a simulated environments to build social interaction skills
  • Training for caregivers on how to do an activity safely or differently

To improve outcomes of OT, parents should work on the same things with their child that their occupational therapist is working on during therapy sessions.


Where to Get Started

The best way is to talk with your doctor who diagnosed your child with autism. They can make recommendations and refer an occupational therapist near you.

If you live in the North Texas or Boulder Colorado areas, the ABA therapy and autism experts at The Behavior Exchange can also point you in the right direction. Send us an email or complete our contact form and will be right with you. We’ve been helping children with autism and their families have a brighter future together for over 20 years. We’d love the opportunity to make a difference in your family’s life, too!





Ashvina attended University of Bombay and graduated with a Bachelors of Commerce. She got her Montessori Diploma in 1985 and taught ever since. Ashvina came to TBE in January of 2016 as Admin Assistant. During the years she got the opportunity to learn and work in different departments such as HR, Finance, Office Manager and Executive Assistant. Last summer TBE bought billing in house and her current focus area is Revenue Cycle Management. She is detail oriented and enjoys working with people. Ashvina volunteers to deliver meals to seniors and local shelters on the weekend. She loves to spend time with her family and grandkids. Ashvina loves her job because she enjoys hearing different points of view, and she feels her contributions help fuel the direction of our company.

Working with children comes naturally to Angela. Her mom was a special education teacher for 30 years and often had Angela join her for Take Your Child to Work Day. And in high school, Angela spent every summer as the nanny for a little boy with an autism spectrum disorder. It was this experience where her passion for working with children with autism started to blossom.

From there, she went on to graduate from Oklahoma State University with a Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Sciences. She learned about Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) in a non-normative development class and from that moment knew that ABA would be her life’s work.

Angela moved to the DFW area shortly after and began working at The Behavior Exchange as a therapist. She worked on her Master’s in Behavior Analysis at the same time. A year after graduating, she earned certification as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.

Now, as a Clinical Director at The Behavior Exchange, she brings a life-long passion to her work, holding a special place in her heart for children with limited language skills and working closely with families to develop healthy sleep habits.

Danielle’s passion for working with families is deeply personal and from the heart. Her younger brother has an autism spectrum disorder, and through their journey as a family, she found her purpose in life as an advocate for individuals with special needs.

After graduating from the University of North Texas with a degree in Human Development and Family Studies, Danielle began volunteering at The Behavior Exchange. She saw passionate therapists, meaningful change for clients, and families with hope for the future. After a summer of volunteering, she officially joined the team as Director of Admissions and found her home with The Behavior Exchange family.

With her extensive experience working as a client advocate with insurance providers, Danielle perseveres to help individuals of all ages and abilities receive the services they need to reach their full potential. She feels truly honored by each and every family who entrusts The Behavior Exchange to be part of their journey and is committed to the organization’s core values, mission, and goal of being a beacon of hope for the community.

Adam has always had a passion for helping individuals of all ages thrive and reach their full potential. He’s also an enthusiastic musician, songwriter, leader, and devoted family man, who has been helping children and team members grow with The Behavior Exchange since 2010.

Prior to joining the team at The Behavior Exchange, Adam was a mortgage loan consultant and grad student, pursuing his master’s degree in Education at the University of North Texas. He graduated in 2013 and also earned a graduate academic certificate in Autism Intervention. The following year, after years as a Behavior Therapist and seeing first-hand the power of ABA and the meaningful impact it can have on children and their families, Adam became a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. He then commenced from the Stagen Leadership Academy after completing the Integral Leadership Program (ILP), a 52-week practice-based program designed to develop executives serious about transforming themselves, their teams, and their organizations.

Adam is truly grateful to be a part of a dynamic, inspiring and compassionate team, and he’s dedicated to bettering the lives of all children and their families through the delivery of the highest quality of ABA services, while supporting the amazing team at The Behavior Exchange.

Soraya is from South Africa and moved to Texas in 1996. She graduated from The University of Texas and pursued a career, at that time, in Education. Soraya taught at a Montessori school for a few years and then took on a leadership role.

During her time in the education system, Soraya realized her passion was to assist children with special needs. So she joined The Behavior Exchange as a therapist, transitioned into a supervisory role in 2017, and a year and a half later, was promoted to Clinical Operations Manager.

She quickly learned the ins and outs of ABA operations and scheduling and successfully collaborates across departments to ensure The Behavior Exchange continues to provide quality services to clients and their families. She’s thankful to be part of such an amazing organization and excited to see what the future holds.

You could say Walter’s career started when he spent hours as a young child drawing superheroes and coloring maps. This passion, along with extraordinary swimming skills, landed him a full swimming scholarship at Texas Christian University, where he graduated in 1997 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Communication Graphics.

During the next 13 years, his design and art direction skills, conceptual-thinking abilities, and marketing-savvy know-how were honed at a few prestigious advertising and marketing agencies around the Dallas area. In the mid 2000s, he helped his wife Tammy Cline-Soza (founder and CEO of The Behavior Exchange) create a unique and concise brand for her new business. From logos and websites to uniforms, brand voice and visuals, Walter has been the main creative force for all things The Behavior Exchange.

Aside from giving birth to The Behavior Exchange brand, Walter is helping Tammy raise two amazing, beautiful children, River and Sierra. In his spare time (the two minutes he’s got per week), you can find Walter illustrating iconic landmarks of Dallas and Texas or looking around for this next open-water swim. Once he gets back in shape.

After 20 years of building The Behavior Exchange, literally from the ground up,
Tammy couldn’t be more proud of the team, culture, and organization that it has become.

As a family helping families, The Behavior Exchanges looks for opportunities that will make the biggest impact and produce life-changing outcomes – for clients, families, and even for team members. Tammy believes that if a team, a family, a community takes care of each other, the possibilities are endless and the relationships built along the way can make life more enriching and challenges easier to navigate. You could say her goal has been to build a kind of utopia full of support, love, and expertise that brings the best services possible to the community and ensures more families have access to those services.

Tammy and her family have dedicated their lives to the mission of The Behavior Exchange and continue to grow, learn, cultivate, challenge, support, and create better models for success. To that end, she is committed to her own leadership development and actively participates in advanced training, mentoring, and deep self-exploration on how to live out her purpose to love and support her family and help others reach their full potential. She takes her position very seriously and tries to serve as a channel for what the universe wants to come to fruition.

She also loves travel, gardening, being creative, MUSIC!, tennis, yoga, meditation, journaling, reading, being in nature, adventures, and more than anything, spending time with her husband Walter and their two beautiful children, River and Sierra.