Occupational therapy interventions in promoting social communication skills among children with autism spectrum disorder: A scoping review



For children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), navigating the complexities of social interaction and communication can be a significant challenge. The core features of ASD can impact their ability to understand social cues, engage in reciprocal conversations, and build meaningful relationships. Fortunately, research is uncovering promising strategies to support these vital skills.


A recent scoping review published in April 2024 investigated the effectiveness of occupational therapy interventions in promoting social communication skills among children with ASD. This blog post delves deeper into this research, exploring the potential of occupational therapy and its implications for families seeking support for their children.


Understanding Occupational Therapy and its Role in ASD


Occupational therapists (OTs) are healthcare professionals who empower individuals of all ages to participate in activities that hold meaning and purpose in their lives. For children with ASD, occupational therapy interventions can address a wide range of challenges, including:

  • Sensory processing issues: Many children with ASD experience sensory sensitivities or overstimulation. OTs can develop strategies to help children manage sensory input and participate more comfortably in social settings.
  • Motor skills development: Fine and gross motor skills play a crucial role in social interaction. OTs can provide targeted interventions to improve coordination, balance, and self-care skills, fostering greater confidence and participation in social play.
  • Social participation: Occupational therapists create a supportive environment where children can practice social skills in a safe and structured way. This can involve role-playing scenarios, using visual supports to enhance communication, and developing strategies for initiating and maintaining interactions with peers.


Investigating the Evidence: A Look at the Scoping Review


The April 2024 scoping review aimed to systematically map the existing research on occupational therapy interventions for social communication in children with ASD. The researchers conducted a comprehensive search of academic databases to identify relevant studies that met their inclusion criteria.


Key Findings and Promising Results


The review identified eight studies published before April 2024 that explored the impact of occupational therapy interventions on social communication skills in children with ASD. A total of 185 participants, ranging in age from 17 months to 12 years, were involved across these studies.


The findings were encouraging! The majority of the studies reported significant improvements in social communication abilities following occupational therapy interventions. Children demonstrated enhanced skills in areas such as:

  • Initiating conversations
  • Taking turns while speaking
  • Using nonverbal cues (e.g., facial expressions, gestures)
  • Understanding and responding to social cues from others


However, it’s important to acknowledge that one study did not find statistically significant results, and another reported mixed findings depending on the assessment tool used. This highlights the need for further research with larger sample sizes and long-term follow-up studies to solidify these initial findings.


A Beacon of Hope for Families: The Potential of Occupational Therapy


Despite the need for additional research, the positive outcomes from the majority of studies offer a beacon of hope for families seeking support for their children with ASD. Here’s what this research suggests:

  • Occupational therapy can be a powerful tool for promoting social communication skills in children with ASD.
  • Early intervention is often crucial for maximizing positive outcomes. The earlier a child with ASD receives occupational therapy support, the greater the potential for developing essential social skills.
  • Occupational therapy interventions can be tailored to address each child’s unique needs and goals. A qualified OT will work collaboratively with the child, family, and other healthcare professionals to develop a comprehensive treatment plan.


By working collaboratively with a qualified occupational therapist, families can empower their children with ASD to build stronger social connections and navigate the world with greater confidence. Remember, every child with ASD is unique, and treatment plans should be individualized based on their specific needs and strengths. Occupational therapy offers a promising approach to support children with ASD in developing the social communication skills they need to thrive.




Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top