Occupational Therapy Exercises for Patients with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) typically experience challenges with communication, social skills, and motor skills. These challenges can be very different depending on the individual. Some people with ASD may be nonverbal, while others may have difficulty speaking or be hard to understand. Some patients may have a lot of trouble with their motor skills, or just a little bit. People with ASD often have trouble developing friendships and relationships due to these challenges. Autism Spectrum Disorder is, of course, a spectrum. It can be mild to severe and affect everyday life in unique ways for each person with autism. Occupational therapy can often be helpful to people with ASD. In this article, we’ll explore occupational therapy exercises for autism.

Communication Challenges

People with ASD may have a variety of challenges with language and communication. These challenges can include the following:

  • Comprehending language spoken by others
  • Expressing themselves through speech
  • Understanding gestures like waving or pointing
  • Following instructions
  • Reading or writing
  • Holding conversations

Individuals with ASD may express themselves in ways that many people don’t understand. For example, they may repeat words or phrases that they’ve heard previously, or they may speak in a monotone voice.

Motor Challenges

People with ASD may also experience challenges with motor skills. According to research, this may be due to less connectivity between certain areas of the brain than in individuals without autism. For example, people with autism may have less connectivity between the inferior parietal lobe, which is involved in hand-eye coordination; and the cerebellum, which is involved in guiding and correcting body movements.

How can an OT help someone with Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Occupational Therapists (OTs) can help patients with ASD with many cognitive skills. The goal is not to make people with ASD conform to a certain standard, but simply to help improve the patient’s life by focusing on their strengths and helping to ease the difficulties they experience in the world.

Occupational therapy for autism can include working on social skills, such as emotion regulation, getting along with others, and having conversations. They can also work with patients on attention span, helping to build focus so that they can thrive in school or work. OTs can additionally help patients work on visual-spatial abilities that are involved in hand-eye coordination.

occupational therapy autism

OTs may also help family members and caregivers to communicate and play with a child with ASD more effectively. They can work with the family on helping the child complete tasks while still allowing them to make discoveries and figure things out on their own.

For teenagers and adults with ASD, an OT can help them with strategies for school and the workplace. This can include completing tasks, paying attention when reading or viewing a presentation, interviewing, interacting with peers, and advocating for accommodations at school or work.

Occupational Therapy Exercises for ASD

OTs can help patients learn new skills and practice cognitive functions. One of the tools that can help patients is digital cognitive exercises. HappyNeuron Pro offers exercises that may help with a wide variety of cognitive functions including social cognition skills, attention, and visual-spatial skills. 

I Remember You is a social cognition exercise designed to help the patient remember names and details about different individuals.

Attention skills may be exercised through visual attention activities such as Gulf Stream and Private Eye. Auditory exercises may also help with attention and processing, through exercises such as You’ve Got Voicemail

HappyNeuron also offers exercises for visual-spatial awareness, such as Sleight of Hands.Worksheets can offer a more tactile experience, which some individuals may prefer. HappyNeuron offers worksheets in all of these areas in addition to our digital exercises.


We hope this article is helpful for family members and caretakers of individuals with ASD, as well as Occupational Therapists and other clinicians who are seeking ways to help patients with ASD. The key points to remember are:

  • People with autism usually experience some level of difficulty with social skills, attention, and motor skills. These difficulties can be mild to severe.
  • Occupational therapy for autism can include exercising cognitive skills and practicing using them in real-life situations.
  • HappyNeuron offers exercises that OTs can use with patients who have ASD to work on social cognition, attention, visual-spatial skills, and more.
Aly Castle

Aly is HappyNeuron Pro’s Content Specialist. She is passionate about mental health and well-being and loves utilizing her design background to share important cognitive information clearly and understandably.

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