Why Occupational Therapists Should Get Certified in Autism

Many Occupational Therapists don’t receive specific training in the areas of autism or other cognitive disorders to help them adapt to the range of challenges Autism Spectrum Disorder can present. Occupational therapists are expected to be highly qualified and capable of working with a wide range of conditions and diverse populations.

The problem is that students with autism and other cognitive disorders don’t typically respond the same to traditional practices, so understanding these differences can be crucial in delivering effective care to these individuals.

Standards for medical professionals are constantly being raised. The combination of these two aspects is why it’s becoming increasingly important for OTs to find ways to differentiate their skill set from others in the industry, helping them gain a competitive edge and to be a top care provider.

Over 3.5 million Americans are living with autism and 1 in every 59 children are diagnosed with the condition. This is a huge population that demands professional care – OTs can be on the front lines of serving them while expanding their market and increasing business opportunities.

An OT’s Role in the Field of Autism

Autism is a lifelong condition that impacts both children and adults. OTs have an opportunity to play a key role in the development and well-being of individuals who are on the spectrum.

However, being an occupational therapist isn’t always enough.

Autism is a very unique, individualized condition that affects people in different ways. Therefore, specialized training in the field of autism is crucial if OTs want to make the greatest impact on students, parents and co-workers alike.

Certification in Autism and Other Cognitive Disorders Can Help Advance Careers

Specific training and certification programs enable OTs to work confidently with both adults and children who have autism.

Therapists play a significant role in the life of someone on the spectrum, as well as their families. They are able to provide these families support and effectively communicate the patient’s progress, needs and help them to better understand the condition.

Specialized training will enhance therapists’ current skills while developing new ones that directly correlate with autism.

OTs are Critical for the Success of Many Students with Autism

The role of an OT in the field of autism can enhance the quality of life for each patient drastically. OTs can use their knowledge in activity and environmental analysis along with evidence-based strategies to work on needs that people on the spectrum face such as self-regulation, sensory needs, adaptive skills, motor development, mental health, social participation and daily life skills.

A specialized training program can help OTs hone their abilities and prepare them to effectively provide appropriate services while consulting and collaborating with the family of the individual, educators, employers, and other health team members. They will also be able to evaluate sensory, motor, cognitive, social and communicative skills in children and adults on the spectrum and provide modifications and accommodations that will encourage community involvement, personal growth, self-advocacy and decision making skills.

Becoming a Certified Autism Specialist can help in all of these areas:

“Having my CAS has allowed me to not only be a resource for the parents whose children I get the privilege to work with, but also to pass the knowledge learned onto co-workers and students. It has helped facilitate a team approach between OT, PT, and ST to treating children with autism, which helps that child and family all the more.” -Cari Ann, MOTR, CAS

It’s important that occupational therapists are prepared to work with individuals who have autism so that they can help them understand their strengths and abilities while helping them overcome challenges so that they can be active participants in their communities.

Another Important Role for OTs: Early Detection of Autism

When OTs are trained in autism they are also able to play a major role in the early detection of autism and can make recommendations for professional services that will provide their patients the most benefit. When OTs identify autism in young children they can recommend early intervention services and refer families to resources.

It is important that OTs who are working with individuals on the spectrum receive specialized training so that they can be prepared to serve their patients optimally, and stay up to date on new research and best practices. A training and certification program is relevant and useful across a variety of work environments such as schools, residential settings, clinical settings, or private practices.

Specialized Training for Autism and other Cognitive Disorders

IBCCES provides a training and certification program making it possible for OTs to become Certified Autism Specialists (CAS).

The certification was developed by the IBCCES board to prepare professionals in education and healthcare to work confidently with individuals who are on the spectrum, as well as provide updated training through an occupational therapist’s career.

The training and certification program is a six step process:

  1. Apply online
  2. Complete online autism training program
  3. Pass certification exam
  4. IBCCES verification
  5. Board approval
  6. Certification issued

Benefits of Becoming a CAS

The CAS program has training options through an AOTA-approved training provider. Becoming a CAS will allow OTs to appeal to more clients and will also help when working to secure contracts with school districts and other organizations.

Benefits of becoming a CAS include:

  • Enhance your professional reputation and credibility
  • Recognize your mastery of specialist level autism training
  • Increase your opportunity for career advancement
  • Recognize your voluntary effort to meet rigorous professional standards in ongoing professional development
  • Include your name on the online public registry of Certified Autism Specialists

Paula Perkins, an OT in Texas who completed the CAS training said,

“This certification allows me to demonstrate my professional competence and skills, specifically in the field of autism. This is increasingly important at a time when standards of accountability mandate service providers be highly qualified. I am a better OT when I am more diversely equipped to meet the spectrum of needs of this growing population.”

Is Training in Autism and Other Cognitive Disorders the Next Step for You?

OTs play a very important role in the development of individuals who have autism. They have the opportunity to create a stable foundation for individuals with autism and their families so they are able to live meaningful, engaging lives.

CAS training will provide the best practices and problem-solving strategies that utilize the most recent research, enabling OTs to become experts in autism and other cognitive disorders so they can better serve this large population and their families.

To take the next step and apply to the CAS program online or learn more information about the training here..

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