Autism Acceptance Month and Parkinson’s Awareness Month: A Rehab Therapist’s Role

By: Jennifer Heiligman, PT, MPT

A lot of organizations use April to celebrate their cause.  This may be because April symbolizes new beginnings and awakenings.  Two causes relevant to the rehab therapy industry that take advantage of this time of year are Autism Acceptance Month (formerly Autism Awareness Month) and Parkinson’s Awareness Month.  

Autism Awareness Month was launched in 1972.  It was established to raise awareness of people with Autism and help them be able to achieve the highest quality of life.  This year, the Autism Society has changed the name to Autism Acceptance Month. This was done in an effort to celebrate differences.  Their goal is to spread awareness, promote acceptance, and ignite change.  This is extremely important since 1 in 54 children are diagnosed with Autism making it the fastest growing developmental disorder.

Parkinson’s Awareness Month is celebrated to raise awareness of this neurodegenerative disease and improve the lives of those affected.  This year the theme that the Parkinson’s Foundation has established for the month is #KnowMorePD. They have provided a #KnowMorePD Tool Kit to help those who would like to participate in bringing awareness of this disease.  It was predicted that by the year 2020 there would be 1 million people living with Parkinson’s in the US.  Approximately 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s each year.

Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for either of these diseases.  However, there are effective treatments that will help individuals improve their ability to perform their daily activities. These treatments include PT, OT, and Speech therapy.  Physical, Occupational, and Speech Therapists play a vital role in the treatment of individuals with both Autism and Parkinson’s Disease.  

Physical Therapy can assist a person with Autism by improving their movement development and coordination.  Occupational therapists and Speech and Language Pathologists work to improve skills necessary to function independently such as dressing, bathing, and eating, as well as, social skills, communication, and problem solving.  

In terms of treatment for individuals with Parkinson’s Disease, Occupational Therapists can assist these patients continue to do the activities that are important to them.  These activities and goals will be different for each person.  An OT takes the individual into account to establish goals that are personal for each patient.  Should difficulty in swallowing and eating or difficulty in verbal communication become an issue, a Speech Therapist can assist the patient with Parkinson’s to function to the best of their ability.   

Physical Therapists can be helpful at all stages of movement impairments associated with Parkinson’s Disease.  The Parkinson’s Association has identified specific care approaches that result in better outcomes.  They have established designated care centers that use programs specifically designed for the treatment of Parkinson’s including LSVT BIG, Punch Out Parkinson’s and PWR! (Parkinson’s Wellness Recovery).  The Parkinson’s Foundation Helpline at 1-800- 4PD-INFO (473-4636) can help patients and families locate an experienced physical therapist near you that is trained to work with people with Parkinson’s Disease.

During the month of April we want to bring attention to Autism and Parkinson’s Disease by celebrating Autism Acceptance Month and Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month.  The goal is to help individuals with these diseases be able to live their best life.  With the hard work and dedication of rehab therapists, this can be a reality for a large percentage of these individuals.

OptimisPT contains the robust clinical information necessary for our PTs, OTs and SLPs to document thoroughly and efficiently for their patients with Autism and Parkinson’s Disease.  Thanks to the input and many suggestions of our expert therapists in these fields, we have been able to build out our neurological content to make it second to none.

If you are a PT, OT or SLP and feel your EMR is not meeting the specific requirements to complete comprehensive documentation for your patients, please to schedule a demo of OptimisPT and see how we are different.