Autism Occupational Therapy
Resource Toolkit


Start Here: Self-Care

“Many children and youth on the autism spectrum experience challenges with self-care skills such as dressing, showering, toileting, toothbrushing and hair cutting due to many reasons including differences in social communication, autistic characteristics such as a preference for sameness, co-occurring intellectual disabilities, motor coordination difficulties, mental health conditions as well as the presence of significant sensory processing differences (Ben-Sasson et al., 2009, Gadow, Devincent, Pomeroy, & Azizian, 2005; Kanne, Abbacchi, & Constantino, 2009; Lecavalier, 2006).” – AIDE Canada

This section contains resources aimed at supporting autistic individuals in self-care tasks. Start with these resources below for a greater overview of self-care strategies, and continue down the page for more specific strategies relating to individual self-care tasks. 

This handout provides an overview of self-care support strategies for autistic individuals, and examples of sensory tools geared towards self-care tasks and activities including bathing, grooming, toileting, feeding, dressing, sleeping. 

In this toolkit, common self-care challenges experienced by autistic individuals are discussed and practical strategies are provided.  

Feeding & Eating

This toolkit aims to provide families with an understanding of why their autistic child/youth may be experiencing feeding challenges and offers effective strategies for families to trial at home.

ASD Feed-Ed is an education plaform for children, youth, caregivers, and health care professionals that provides information and resources about feeding and autistic children. The resource explores feeding areas including medical, behaviour, oral motor, environmental and research.

This handbook was created by the Feeding and Swallowing team at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital. This handbook highlights key considerations to support clinical decision making when supporting feeding and swallowing issues in children with physical and developmental disabilities.

This 5 page handout describes how sensory differences can impact feeding and mealtime. Offers signs within each sensory system to better understand a child’s sensory profile. Outlines examples of alerting and calming activities that may support mealtime participation.

This article provides an overview of overeating in autistic children and youth including reasons why this may occur. Offers some suggestions to address the overeating based on the reason for the behaviour.

This guide created by the Autism Treatment Network focuses on feeding and autistic children. The resource provides an overview of common feeding challenges in children with autism and describes strategies that caregivers can trial at home to support children with feeding and participation in mealtime.

Autism Speaks article written by occupational therapist, Moira Pena describing 10 tips to support autistic children at mealtime. Includes strategies such as ruling out medical issues, supporting posture and ways to expand a child’s diet.

In this article for Autism Speaks, occupational therapist, Moira Pena explores reasons why an autistic individual may engage in chewing and swallowing of non edible objects. Moira provides general strategies to address this behaviour including sensory based strategies.

Article written by Moira Pena, occupational therapist, reviews signs of oral motor difficulties that may impact feeding skills. Offers practical strategies to support the development of feeding skills in young children.

Hyperphagia is an extreme, unsatisfied, drive to consume food to the point of being life threatening. In this episode of the Lomah Podcast, they discuss the best ways to provide food security for those with hyperphagia.

The Satter Division of Responsibility in Feeding outlines specific jobs and responsibilities for the caregiver and the child with regards to eating. Part of the caregivers role is to determine what, when, and where of feeding and let the child determine how much and whether to eat what is provided. Additional description of roles and responsibilites along with resources is provided.

As part of the Ellyn Satter Institute website, this page specifically outlines what caregivers can expect for feeding skills at different ages.

Feeding Matters is developing the Infant and Child Questionnaire, an evidence based tool to promote early identification of feeding disorders. The tool helps caregivers to learn more about typical feeding development and to identify any feeding difficulties in their child(ren).

PEAS provides evidence-based resources for clinicians working with children and feeding challenges. Resources include clinical screening and assessment tools, videos and webinars, and resources for families.

The Sensory Chat Podcast is presented by 4 professionals (OTs, PTs,SLPs) and is aimed to support caregivers of children with sensory processing differences. In this episode, they discuss strategies to reduce the stress when taking a child with sensory differences to eat a restaurant.

In this podcast episode, Kim Clairy, an autistic OT, shares her perspectives about autism in relation to eating disorders and sensory processing. 

A blog post by occupational therapist, Alisha Grogan highlights how mealtime is a highly sensory experience and how sensory differences can impact mealtime/eating. She outlines 5 sensory based activities to support picky eaters.

In this brief article written by Gabriela Cantero, she describes her experiences with sensory processing disorder and how it impacts her interaction with food.Gabriela provides some insight into how sensory sensitivities can alter the eating experience.

This blog post defines picky eating vs. pediatric feeding disorder (PFD). Highlights some flags for parents in identifying when their child’s picky eating is more serious. Includes a link to the Feeding Matters questionnaire to support caregivers in identifying PFD.

Pictello is an app available for purchase. The app can be used to create social stories and visual schedules. Stories and schedules can be personalized with the user’s own photos and voice recordings.

Visual Daily Schedule is a free app with in app purchases. The user can create personalized visual schedules using graphic icons. Additional features include marking a task when complete, setting alerts to start the task and task timers.


This toolkit developed by AIDE Canada summarizes the current knowledge around sleep challenges in autistic children and children with developmental disabilities. The toolkit provides an overview of evidence based strategies for caregivers to try at home to support their child(ren)’s sleep. Includes links to additional resources including the sleep intervention program Better Nights, Better Days for Children with Neurodevelopmental Disorders (BDBN-NDD).

Article published by Autism Ontario describes the high rate of sleep challenges for austistic individuals and the impact of poor sleep on daily function. The article outlines indicators of sleep challenges and discusses insomina, which is the most common sleep challenge in ASD. Several practical strategies to address insomnia are described. In addition, more serious conditiions that lead to poor sleep are also described.

This is a guide created for caregivers of autistics teens to support them in developing healthy sleep habits. Strategies are based on evidence and knowledge from sleep experts and address challenges specific to adolescents.

This toolkit developed by the Autism Treatment Network explores sleep challenges in children with autism. Includes various evidence based strategies that caregivers can implement to support healthy sleep habits including establishing bedtime routines, use of the ‘bedtime pass’, and creating comfortable sleep environments.

Episode # 4 of the Sensory Chat Podcast explores sleep challenges in young children. Explains the concept of ‘down regulation’. Discusses general sensory based strategies that can promote the transition towards the sleepy state needed for sleep initiation. Considers factors such as light, temperature, touch and taste and their impact on sleep.

In this podcast episode, Dr. Casares discusses sleep hygiene,  and practical strategies to improve a child’s sleep routine. Plus, she delves into the subject of melatonin, demystifying its role, benefits, and considerations. 

Autistic children often have a harder time falling asleep and staying asleep when compared their peers. In this episode of the Autism and Sensory Parenting podcast, Candice Curtis, occupational therapist, discusses possible reasons why a child may be having a hard time with sleep. She offers many strategies to support autistic children to regulate their nervous system to support better sleep.

Excellent infographic from Family Support Serices BC with caregiver-friendly language with key information and actionable strategies.

Headspace is an app that provides guided lessons on meditation and sleep. It supports mindfulness, deep breathing, and connection to one’s body and emotions. A free trial is available but requires a subscription for longer term use.


This handout breaks down all the necessary skills required in dressing (e.g. coordination, balance, motor skills, body schema). General principles to support dressing as well as developmental dressing milestones are outlined. The handout describes strategies to target specific dressing tasks including tying shoe laces, putting on socks, shoes, coats, etc. Backward and forward chaining strategies are described and specific examples are outlined.

This blog explores sensory processing differences and the impact on clothing preferences and dressing skills. The author provides practical sensory based solutions to address common dressing challenges.

This Dressing Workbook developed by Can Child can provide guidance when teaching dressing skills using the backwards chaining method. Common dressing tasks are broken down step by step to faciliate learning of dressing skills

The Sensory Chat Podcast is presented by 4 professionals (OTs, PTs,SLPs) and is aimed to support caregivers of children with sensory processing differences. In this episode, they discuss common dressing challenges for children with sensory differences. They share strategies some practical strategies for caregivers to try.

This app was co-developed with the autistic community and can be used to create social stories to support routines and participation in daily activities. The user can choose stories from the library or create their own personalized stories.


This article outlines strateiges that can be done prior to, during and following a hair cut. The strategies consider ways to reduce anxiety and to support a child’s sensory needs.

This haircutting training guide was developed to support hairstylists and parents/caregivers to better understand the challenges some autistic children experience when getting a hair cut. The guide provides strategies to support the child such as using a visual schedule outlining the steps in going to the hair salon for a hair cut. Additional strategies include ways that caregivers can support their children at home during hair grooming tasks.

With this app, users can create customized social stories using photos and voice recordings.

Toca Hair Salon app is a fun game where players can create hairstyles for the characters. This game may be a fun way to introduce children to going to a salon and the steps in getting a haircut.


This resource provides a brief overview of hygiene and autistic teenagers. Provides examples of supports such as visual schedules and video modeling to support autistic teens in learning and participating in hygiene tasks.

This brief guide for caregivers of autistic adolescents provides an overview of potential challenges that impact an individual’s participation in self care tasks. The resource provides some suggestions such as the use of visual supports and social stories to support particpation in hygiene tasks.

In this blog post written by Ira Kraemer, austistic self advocate, they describe their own personal challenges completing self care tasks such as showering and brushing teeth. Ira describes how sensory differences and executive functioning can impact self-care tasks and offers alternatives to those who may be experiencing similar difficulties completing these tasks.

An app to create personalized social stories by adding in own images and photos. Includes some templates and examples for free and some for purchase.

This app is a timer that can be personalized with child friendly images. The timer can be set for a specific amount of time and then visually shows that time is counting down.


This resource from Kerry’s Place provides an overview of the basics of toilet training and identifies key considerations before beginning the process.

This Lomah Podcast is all about the complicated behaviours of fecal smearing (scatolia) and fecal ingesting (coprophagia). Kate Reynolds is the expert guest for this episode. They explore many possible reasons for this behaviour, the why, and some examples of how to address these behaviours.

This guide from the National Autistic Society outlines some of the common toileting challenges experienced by autistic children. The guide provides strategies to support toileting including when to start, establishing a routine, using visuals and optimizing the environment.

This article from the Autism Awareness Centre describes 3 common toileting challenges for individuals with ASD – withholding, constipation and overflow. The author explains that these 3 common bowel issues can be linked to fecal smearing. Discusses some key ideas on the management of constipation.

This guide from Autism Speaks explores common toileting challenges for children with autism. Provides information on how to start the process, tips to increase toileting success and additional resources.

Many children with autism have gastrointestinal issues including constipation. This guide provides support for parents/caregivers to increase their understanding of constipation and to learn strategies to help manage their children’s constipation.

This website offers toileting picture cards to show the various steps of toileting. Pictures can be printed and used as part of a visual schedule/toileting routine.

This app allows parents/caregivers to track toileting activities (e.g. sat on the toilet, went pee, etc) so they can track of child’s skill development over time. App also includes a timer to use during toilet training. The app is free and can be used without internet access.

Brushing Teeth

This page reviews how sensory differences can impact self care tasks such as toothbrushing. This resource provides practical tips for supporting to participate in brushing their teeth.

This page provides a brief overview of sensory processing (SP) and how SP differences may impact a child’s particpation in brushing teeth. This resource provides potential strategies to support an autistic child in learning to brush their teeth.

This blog post provides an overview and considerations for caregivers when selecting a toothbrush for their autistic child.

This app is a fun game using Pokemon characters that may motivate some children to brush their teeth and may encourage more thorough brushing.

This app is a timer that can be used to encourage a child to brush their teeth for a longer amout of time. The app includes Disney characters and other features such as a calendar and reward chart.

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