AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER: Some Days Can Be Hard, Even When You’re On The Mild End Of The Spectrum

by | Oct 1, 2019

School is back and as an academic occupational therapist I get to wander my familiar campuses and identify my students, their schedule, and their teachers.  Today I was meeting C.C. for the first time.  I saw him across the playground, the one toe walking quickly with his hands spread behind him.  He was responding quickly to the end of recess bell until an adult in the area advised him to collect his lunch pail.

Changing course and speed appeared effortful as C.C. came to a sudden stop.  Returning to obtain his lunch box, he picked up his pace of walking again.  The lunch container was not zippered fully and 2 pieces of fruit fell onto the ground.

Just as a toddler will hang onto a string with a wooden ducky on wheels and then suddenly release the string, C.C. seemed equally unaware of the position of his hands in space once they were outside his peripheral vision.  Since he toe-walked with arms and hands behind him, he seemed unaware of the object he has gripping. He was now faced with picking up the fruit and being late for class or leaving the fruit and arriving on time. 

C.C. was having a very different experience than his peers who continued to slowly line up and visit together.  C.C. was demonstrating the difficulty he had in operating his body in space.  For example, toe walking or running can often be a strategy for an individual to quickly prepulse themselves forward without the complexity of rotating the limbs and trunk, such as in a normal gait or running stride. 

Complex rotational motions, particularly involving crossing at the midline, are difficult for these students with mild ASD.  If you were to stand this student on an uneven surface, they may not know which trunk muscles to tighten in order to prevent leaning so far that they fall over.  This lack of awareness of position in three-dimensional space, translates to difficulty in two‑dimensional space that is incorporated in reading, writing, and arithmetic. 

C.C. is the very student who requires hula‑hoops and jump ropes, four square court, and backyard basketball. Students need PE, recess, and physical adventures on the weekend to help develop the part of the brain that promotes midline coordination, complex rotation for posture and body mechanics, as well as, right/left integration.  Movement at home and at school is key to brain development.  Brain development of all children is in our hands.

For more information on the going-ons, behind what’s going on in your unique learner’s brain, consider reading my book, Unique Learner Solutions.  You can purchase a copy of my book here on my website or on


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