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Dylan’s Transformation: Confidence Through Occupational Therapy

Due to delays in fine motor skills and an inability to regulate himself, 4-year-old Dylan lived a life of struggle, with an inability to communicate and regular outbursts. But thanks to Occupational Therapy, Dylan went from distressed to confident in a matter of months. 

“Anything that seemed difficult or challenging would result in Dylan throwing himself on the floor.” 

We first met Dylan (name changed to protect client privacy) in 2022 when he came to our East Valley Center for ABA, Speech and OT. A 4-year-old boy who happens to be a triplet, he came to us with two significant challenges: delays in fine motor skills, specifically difficulty in using fingers and hands. For instance, he wasn’t able to hold a pencil with appropriate grasp, manipulate items with appropriate dexterity or have the strength to open containers. He also had sensory processing differences, which means his body does not interpret sensory external or internal information correctly. This resulted in him not being able to regulate himself, which kept him in considerable distress especially with perceived challenging daily activities. If his environment was too loud and challenging, he was unable to say he wanted to leave the room. Instead, he would have an outburst. Because of this, he could not communicate with his family, play appropriately or continue tasks on a day-to-day basis. Family mealtimes were stressful for everyone because Dylan was unable to sit still and use utensils.

After his evaluation with an AZA United OT, it was determined that his therapy team would focus on the goals of: 

  • improving fine motor skills 
  • learning coping mechanisms 
  • how to self-regulate his body


A comprehensive plan was put into place for Dylan. His behavior technician was present in his sessions and his parents practiced and built on the skills learned in therapy, feeding back to OT weekly. 


For the parents, this was an eye-opening experience. They learned that they did not have to buy expensive pieces of equipment to help Dylan at home but could instead use everyday items such as tearing paper for muscle strength. At one point there were shreds of toilet paper all over the house!

Here are just a few of the things that were implemented to help Dylan achieve these goals:

Fine motor skills:

  • Playing, finding items inside and manipulating putty or playdough
  • Building blocks with Legos
  • Working on being able to cut things
  • Helping him write his name (form characters correctly)
  • Prewriting skills

Sensory processing:

  • Blowing balloons or cotton balls to help with breathing
  • Smelling scents
  • Yoga
  • Identifying what an emotion is, e.g.
  • “How are you feeling in this moment”?
  • followed by showing him how to use techniques to self-regulate.
  • Sensory strategies so his body would interpret his body correctly, for example, squeezes to his limbs.


Progress for Dylan

After just 5 months, Dylan had made tremendous progress. Instead of being easily frustrated when completing a difficult task, he is now enthusiastic about sessions. He loves trying things and his confidence has greatly improved. And what a difference this has made to the family! Now, they spend more time in the community because he can interact well and engage in activities independently or with siblings/parents. He is more willing to try new things and with the improved ability to self-regulate; this has changed Dylan’s perspective on where he is, what he is doing and how he is trying to do things.

And for his occupational therapist, part of Team AZA since June 2021 when she came on board to launch our OT program, Dylan’s story illustrates why she is dedicated to doing OT, 

“My job is to get him to a point that he’s the best person he can be…and I know that I would’ve played a small part of that!”

Contact our Family Support Team if you would like to learn how to get started Occupational Therapy or any other programs and services that we offer. Our Family Support Team is always available to help and is available at no charge to all members of the autism and developmental disability community. Schedule a free phone appointment that works with your schedule by visiting

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