Physical Therapy for Autism: How Effective Is It?

Photo of author


Posted On

There are over 1.2 million Americans living with autism, almost all of them affected by one or more physical impairments such as sensory and motor difficulties. Physical therapy is a common treatment for these issues but not every type of therapy is effective in treating the symptoms that autistic individuals experience on a daily basis. This article will explore how different therapies can be used to treat ASD-related conditions and determine which techniques have been shown to yield long-term benefits from an individual perspective

The “physical therapy treatment ideas for autism” is a question that has been asked by many people. The effectiveness of physical therapy for autism is not known, but there are some treatments that have shown to be effective.


Regardless of the degree of their autism diagnosis, people with autism may suffer with motor coordination or abilities. Using exercise routines and activities, physical therapy may assist strengthen both gross and fine motor abilities, which is particularly beneficial for youngsters.

Physical therapy focuses on increasing muscular strength, improving posture, and improving hand-eye coordination, among other things.

What Role Does Physical Therapy Play in the Treatment of Autism?

Autistic people may have difficulty with motor coordination, posture, balance, and physical strength. They may have difficulties taking care of themselves in everyday life in certain circumstances. Physical therapy aids in the improvement of range of motion, muscular strength and control, and other areas of physical health that may be harmed by this developmental disorder.

Depending on the severity of the illness, physical therapy is one of the numerous therapies that persons with autism need. Physical therapy may be beneficial early in life, at different times during one’s life, or continually throughout one’s life. Following a specific treatment plan may help determine when and how much physical therapy is required.

Early detection and intervention, usually when a kid is approximately two years old, may assist avoid the development of maladaptive behaviors that inhibit the child from physically growing and developing as they should. Other harmful habits, such as isolation, may be avoided with early intervention.

Physical therapists can tailor programs for autistic children and adults based on their age, growth, and particular requirements.

The Process of Physical Therapy

Through prescribed exercises, physical therapy helps a broad spectrum of individuals improve their physical health, range of motion, and coordination. These are often taught and practiced in a clinic, but they may also be done at home to assist the client maintain their physical progress in a comfortable setting.

Physical therapists are engaged in the treatment of a variety of ailments. They might assist a client in regaining strength in a broken limb, improving heart health after a heart attack recovery, or maintaining as much strength and flexibility as possible in arthritic joints. They may also be beneficial to those with autism.

Physical Therapy Requirements for Autism

General communication necessitates the use of motor skills. Speech or cognitive issues might be a symptom of a greater problem with physical development.

Low muscle tone and “clumsiness” are common in persons with autism, although these characteristics may be linked to repetitive motor motions and oral-motor disorders, such as tongue and jaw abnormalities that make it difficult to talk. When these issues are combined, general communication and socializing might suffer.

Behavioral techniques, such as applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy, are often used in autism treatment. However, these possible physical development concerns may need a different strategy.

While differences in physicality are not one of the core diagnostic criteria for autism — the core components, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are social, communication, and cognitive struggles — differences in gross motor skills, such as walking, and fine motor skills, such as using a pen or pencil, may all show up in people with autism at various levels of severity.

There were noticeable variations in the following physical areas, according to a 2012 paper:

  • Early motor skills: Many children with autism demonstrated a slowdown in development, including some physical development, around the age of 14 months. Children with autism took longer to develop mature motor patterns, according to one study. More sensitive testing, according to the study, would be required to detect motor abnormalities early in life.

  • Gestures and motor imitation: Children on the autism spectrum often have difficulty communicating, which includes using physical gestures to communicate themselves and reading others’ body language. Children under the age of four often imitate their parents’ and siblings’ facial expressions and body language. Children with autism, according to studies, do not, which may have an influence on their physical development.

  • Postural control: People with autism may have trouble with balance, limiting them to more static postures. Basic functions such as walking or standing comfortably might be made more difficult by a lack of postural control and stability. According to one research, some children’s postural control did not seem to improve until they were approximately 12 years old.

  • Dyspraxia is a medical term indicating overall clumsiness, which is often linked to developmental problems such as autism. Fine motor capabilities and movement quality are typically worse in children on the autism spectrum, according to many small investigations, but no bigger research have been undertaken to assess the range or reason.

Physical therapists are not included in the treatment of autism. To address motor control concerns while developing appropriate social, cognitive, and communicative skills, parents and caregivers commonly turn to their child’s physician first, then to a behavioral therapist such an ABA therapist.

Approaches to Physical Therapy for Autism Suggestions

Physical therapists can assist persons with autism develop their motor abilities in a variety of ways. Exercise in general is one of the most basic.

Exercises in General

Walking, running, horseback riding, swimming, weight training, and biking all enhanced both motor and social abilities, according to a meta-analysis, in part because many of these activities require communication with others. In comparison to control groups who may have been exercising on their own but did not have monitoring from a medical expert to establish a treatment plan, the research indicated that individual intervention with a physical therapist dramatically improved results.

Although a person with autism may prefer one sort of exercise over another, the physical therapist may need to steer them toward other activities. While there is no established method for incorporating physical therapy into autism treatment, knowing general requirements and creating strategies to persuade the child or adult with autism to participate may be beneficial. This may include collaborating with the person’s ABA therapist.


Exergaming, which combines exercise and play, may be especially beneficial to children on the autistic spectrum. Exergaming aids in the development of executive function, working memory, motor strength, agility, and running speed.

Because the exercise is enjoyable for youngsters, it is easier to incorporate into everyday life and reap significant advantages.


Participating in yoga as an intervention for children with autism enhanced certain abilities but not others, according to a research. A total of 24 children on the autism spectrum, ranging in age from 5 to 13, were separated into two groups for the research. One group engaged in “intellectual intervention,” which included arts and crafts, reading, and other sedentary activities, while the other joined a physical therapist-led yoga session.

The yoga group had greater gross motor function after eight weeks, whereas the academic group had higher fine motor performance. Both groups increased their imitation abilities, however the yoga group progressed more quickly than the academic group. When age and accompanying development were taken into account, it was shown that academic therapies may function better for older children with autism than for younger children.

Some physical therapy costs may be covered by insurance.

Physical therapy may be very beneficial as a preventative measure, since it can lessen the need for surgery and drugs later in life.

Physical therapy approaches are increasingly being covered by insurance companies, rather than merely medicine or surgery. This is due to a growing medical knowledge of the need of preventive treatments in long-term health. Consult your insurance provider to see whether physical therapy is covered as part of your autism treatment plan.

Physical concerns such as poor posture or weak muscles may be treated with exercise early, which can improve overall results and save medical costs over time. Depending on the severity of the autism, extra medical treatment may be required, but physical therapy may assist to improve range of motion and quality of life.


The “physical therapy outcome measures for autism” is a treatment option that has been shown to be effective in some cases of autism. The article discusses the results of a study that looked at the effectiveness of physical therapy intervention.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does physical therapy help autism?

A: Yes, physical therapy is an effective tool for many individuals on the autism spectrum. It can improve motor skills, increase social interactions and autonomy in activities of daily living like dressing and personal hygiene.

What is the most successful treatment for ASD?

A: There are many treatments for ASD. One that has been very successful is ABA therapy, which stands for Applied Behavior Analysis. People with autism can benefit from this specially designed treatment by learning skills such as how to use a computer or self-care tasks like bathing and brushing their teeth.

What is the best treatment for autism?

A: There is no one answer to this question. The best way to find out what will work for you and your family is trial-and-error. There are many different treatments that some people are more successful with than others, so its important not to give up on the treatment before trying a few options yourself.

Related Tags

  • physical therapy treatment for autism
  • physical therapy for autism near me
  • physical therapy for autistic adults
  • physical therapy for autistic child near me
  • physical therapy in autism spectrum disorder