Aquatic Therapy: An Effective Physical Therapy for Children with Autism
Aquatic Therapy: An Effective Physical Therapy for Children with Autism Water has been used for rehabilitative, rejuvenation and healing purposes for over 100 years. (Irion, 1997). Aquatic therapy has been accepted as a beneficial physical therapy treatment. However, the primary use of aquatic therapy (Fragala-Pinkham, Haley, & O’Neill, 2008) has been for those patients that have had either neuromuscular or musculoskeletal maladies. The purpose of this study is to attempt to evaluate aquatic therapy’s effectiveness in mental conditioning. The focus is to determine aquatic therapy’s effectiveness in reducing self-stimulating behaviors, (i.e. head banging, rocking and hand flapping), in individuals with a diagnosis of autism or a diagnosis that falls under the umbrella of autism spectrum disorders. Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorders
Autism is a disorder that is extremely difficult to define. Pediatricians, psychologists, and psychiatrists have not only argued for many years over the cause of autism and best treatments, but have consistently not agreed on the definition of autism itself. The generally accepted definition is that autism is a developmental disorder that exhibits in children usually within the first three years of life which causes developmental delay that can range from mild to severe. The DSM-IV (American Psychiatric Association, 2000) requires that children have a total of six deficits that fall under three separate categories to be diagnosed with “classic” autism. Children must have at least two deficits that fall under category A, B, and C, with, (at the very least), two deficits from category A, and, (at the very least), one deficit from category B and one deficit from category C. (Autism Speaks, Inc., n.d.)
A. Impairment in social interaction
B. Impairment in communication
C. Repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests and/or activities.
Children that have some of the varying characteristics of autism, but do not have the specifically defined combination of deficits in all three different areas defined by the DSM-IV, are typically labeled with the diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder. Autism spectrum disorders are also referred to as pervasive developmental disorders, (PDD). In the DSM-IV, individuals that have an autism spectrum disorder, that is not otherwise specified, are diagnosed as having (PDD-NOS). For example, two disorders that have autistic features, but fall under the umbrella of PDD-NOS are Rhett syndrome and DiGeorge syndrome. For the purpose of this study, we will consider the effectiveness of aquatic therapy on reducing self-stimulating behaviors on children with a diagnosis of autism or a diagnosis that falls under the autistic spectrum disorder category. Self-Stimulating Behaviors in Autism
Self-stimulating behaviors frequently occur in children with autism and autism spectrum disorders. Self-stimulating behaviors fall under category C. These behaviors can vary greatly from one autistic individual to the other in intensity, frequency and duration. The following chart illustrates some of the most frequently seen self-stimulating behaviors and their correlating sensory functions category. (Eielson, (2007-2008), ¶ 2) |Sense |Stereotypic Behaviors | |Visual |Staring at lights, repetitive blinking, moving fingers in front of the eyes, hand-flapping | |Auditory |Tapping ears, snapping fingers, making vocal sounds | |Tactile |Rubbing the skin with one’s hands or with another object, scratching | |Vestibular |Rocking front to back, rocking side-to-side | |Taste...