One of the mainstream methods that therapists use to train and engage children with autism is by replicating life situations with the help of toys. However, effectively engaging autistic children in play can be challenging.
In this post, we will look at three simple strategies that will help you engage your child during a play activity that teaches them ordinary life skills. If you’re looking to perform in-home ABA therapy, you could use these strategies to effectively engage your child in the activities to teach them a skill.
Create A Comfortable Low Distracting Play Environment
Like any neurotypical person, piled-up items or an out-of-order room or messy table can also distract an autistic child. However, in their case, it can be a bit more severe. You must remove those distractions to provide your child with a soothing environment. For instance, if your child has too many color markers, toy cars, and puzzle pieces, they might get confused and find it hard to focus.
You must remove all items in sight that aren’t related to the current activity you’re focusing on. You can also turn down the TV or music to provide a quiet space. It’s recommended that you have only one or two toys out at a time.
Furthermore, when the child gets tired of that activity, encourage them to clean it up or give it to you before taking out the next toy. Also, try to define a confined play area. Maybe you can mark and prompt the child about the borders and tell them that’s their play area.
These boundaries will help the child stay more focused and let them know where they are expected to be. It will also let them focus more clearly on the activity at hand.
Be The Keeper Of The Toys
Again, as we mentioned earlier, too many items at once can overwhelm anybody, especially a child with autism. Worse, they could lose interest in the activity. Earlier, we discussed how it’s better to remove unrelated items from the room.
However, it’s even better to improve your connection with the child by letting them know that you play along instead of just being an observer. To do so, you can play the part of the toy keeper. This will keep the play area free from extra distractions as well as ensure that you engage with the child, which will enhance the overall effectiveness of the activity.
Start by following your child’s lead and then suggest small changes. These changes can be as simple as just changing the colors of the items you’re using or maybe the color of the plate you give to your child when it’s snack time.
Try some changes in action, sounds and songs that you’re using. By introducing these small changes and keeping things exciting, you encourage flexibility within the child’s learning.
Sometimes, the change can be too much, and the child can feel frustrated and anxious. So keep those changes small. You don’t want to push or frustrate them but help them become more flexible. The more flexible they are, the more well-adjusted they can be out in the real world.
Once a child learns a skill, they should be able to use those skills flexibly and widely in natural life situations. For example, a child should be able to count blocks while sitting on the floor with a therapist or count baking ingredients while cooking with their parent.
The strategies we discussed here will help your child develop skills for surviving on their own in the future. Remember, every child is unique and engaging them in play is essential for their development.