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Disciplines: Physical Therapy
Hours: 3 Contact Hours
Author(s): Lisa Dannemiller, PT, DSc, PCS
Peer Reviewer(s): Kathryn N. Oriel, PT, EdD
Item#: Q3488
Contents: 1 Course Book (72 pages)
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High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorders: Diagnosis, Strengths, Challenges, and Physical Therapy Interventions

Price $29.95
Item # Q3488
When available, the Online Course format is included with the hard copy, eBook, or audio book formats!

Expiration Date: July 30, 2019

In 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data indicating that 1 out of every 68 children is diagnosed with a disorder on the autism spectrum. These numbers indicate a continuing increase in the number of children being identified with this condition. Along with these numbers, physical and occupational therapists and other healthcare providers have seen a parallel rise in referrals for assessment and intervention services.  While physical therapists have not always been included as part of the healthcare team working with individuals with autism spectrum disorders, it is imperative that physical therapy practitioners remain up to date and well-informed regarding evidence-based practice for this population.  Individuals with autism spectrum disorders frequently present with motor impairments and limitations; some researchers even suggest that motor impairment is a core characteristic of autism spectrum disorder. Individuals with autism spectrum disorders may benefit from intervention by physical therapists who are educated about this diagnosis.

This intermediate level course will provide physical therapists and physical therapy assistants with information on the criteria and classification system for autism spectrum disorders based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 5th edition, along with information about how physical therapists can contribute to the clinical decisions and care provided to these individuals. Appropriate assessments and treatment strategies will be described that are intended to meet the needs of individuals with an autism spectrum disorder, their families, and others who work and interact with them. This course will also address suggested methods of communication with and engagement of these individuals in the context of physical therapy management.  Although this course is specifically designed to examine the unique and heterogeneous needs of people with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders, much of the information can also be applied to individuals diagnosed on the autism spectrum with any degree of impairment.


Texas PTs & PTAs - This activity is provided by the Texas Board of Physical Therapy Examiners Accredited Provider #1911021TX and meets continuing competence requirements for PT & PTA license renewal in Texas.

California PTs & PTAs – Approved by the Physical Therapy Board of California through Net Education Design, Inc., an agency recognized by the board to approved courses that meet Physical Therapy Regulations 1399.96.

Course Objectives

  • Recognize the history and prevalence of autism spectrum disorders.
  • Describe the causal theories for autism spectrum disorders.
  • Identify diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorders. 
  • Identify the specific strengths and challenges for individuals with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders.
  • Identify the most common motor impairments and functional limitations in individuals with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders.
  • Describe a physical therapy examination, evaluation, and plan of care for individuals with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders.
  • Select appropriate evidence-based interventions and strategies to address physical impairments and functional limitations of individuals with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders. 

Lisa Dannemiller, PT, DSc, PCS, has had more than 28 years of clinical experience working with persons with developmental disabilities, including those with autism and other neurodevelopmental conditions. In her current clinical practice, she participates in a diagnostic evaluation team for young children with autism and other neurodevelopmental concerns, and provides outpatient physical therapy for children. Dr. Dannemiller is an assistant professor in the University of Colorado Physical Therapy Program, where her primary teaching responsibility includes the pediatric content in the neuromuscular and musculoskeletal tracks. She received a bachelor of science degree in physical therapy from the Medical College of Virginia and a doctor of science degree in pediatric physical therapy from Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions. She is a pediatric certified specialist with the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties. Dr. Dannemiller has presented nationally on topics related to autism, cerebral palsy, and physical therapy education. She is also the Region II Director of the Section on Pediatrics of the American Physical Therapy Association.

Kathryn N. Oriel, PT, EdD, is an associate professor in the Department of Physical Therapy at Lebanon Valley College. She has practiced in a variety of pediatric physical therapy practice settings, including outpatient, an inclusive preschool, and currently early intervention. Her research is focused on the impact of exercise on behavior in children with autism spectrum disorder, as well as the benefits of participation in community-based exercise programs for children with physical disabilities. She has published and presented this research at the state and national levels. Dr. Oriel also works collaboratively with colleagues in special education in the development and implementation of aquatic and land-based exercise programs for children with autism spectrum disorder and children with physical disabilities. 

  • Courses must be completed on or before the expiration date noted in the course description above.
  • You must score 75% or higher on the final exam and complete the course evaluation to pass this course and receive a certificate of completion.
  • Through our review processes, Western Schools ensures that the course content is presented in a balanced, unbiased manner and is free from commercial influence. It is Western Schools’ policy not to accept commercial support.
  • All persons involved in the planning and development of this course have disclosed no relevant financial relationships or other conflicts of interest related to the course content.
  • There are no prerequisites for this course.