Friday, November 6, 2009

Ten Tips for PLAYing with Kids on the Spectrum

1.)  WAIT--Always wait for their intention. 

2.)    Respect them--do not say things about them, in front of them, that you wouldn't say in front of a typical child.  Do not force them to do something before they are ready.  MOST kids with ASD have extremely high anxiety and they need "baby steps" to overcome whatever causes the anxiety (usually transitions), which takes total respect for them and HUGE amounts of patience in yourself.

3.)    Assume that they understand you, even if their receptive language appears low.  Just because they don't do what you ask, doesn't mean they don't UNDERSTAND it.  They just may not "feel" like doing it. 

4.)     FOLLOW THEIR LEAD--even if YOU don't enjoy the activity, do not try to insert your ideas until you are sure they have none of their own.

5.)     Woo and Wait--If they don't appear to have any intentions, introduce something, gently.  See how they tolerate gentle touching, by using your fingers up their arm singing "Itsy Bitsy Spider". Stop, if they "ask"--remember gestures are also communicating, so don't be offended if they push your hand away.  If they are non-verbal, they are asking the only way they can.  If they tolerate/like it, stop and WAIT to see if they ask for you to do it again.  Again, if they are non/pre-verbal, this can come in the form of eye contact, grabbing your hand, a smile.

6.)    Use "Cognitive Dissonance".  For example:  If they are upset because they can't have something, act out their anger and frustration (NOT in a mocking way) and use the words they would use, if they could.  Don't be afraid to lay down on the floor, like they might, and say (in a salient voice), "MOM!  I am SO mad at you!  I want to play with that and you won't let me!"

7.)    Talk FOR the child, especially non/pre-verbal children, but also for verbal children.  If a child gets upset because someone takes his toy, say in a salient voice, "I'm Mad!  I want my toy back!  Give it back!"  Then use your "typical voice" to respond to the child, "You really want that toy back!  Let's see what we can do about that."  
For verbal kids, they need to learn what those feelings are and identify them.  For pre/non-verbal children, they need to hear what they would say if they could talk and they also need the reassurance that they are understood.  Telling them to "not hit" or "settle down" will not get you the results you are looking forward.

8.)    Do not be afraid of silence.  Try NOT to talk or teach, unless you are talking FOR the child.

9.)     JOIN the child in whatever they are doing.  If they are playing with a "Comfort Zone" (CZ)  object, watch what they are doing and narrate what they are doing.  Think what you could do with the item that would be even more fun for them.

10.)    ENJOY the child.  Do not "put conditions"  i.e. trying to 'teach', "if you do this, I'll do this", upon your PLAY time.  Let THEM shine.

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PLAYing with Passion

Autism, Floortime, PLAY Project