Today’s topic is the importance of teaching an autistic child to play alone.
Happy Thursday everyone! 🙂
It is nearing the end of another week and I am shocked by how quickly this school year is flying by! This happens every year – Summer ends, the new school year rolls in, before we know it, it is Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Spring break… Summer! (Yes, I still celebrate Thanksgiving eventhough I have been living in Paris for 14 years! It is one of my favorite holidays.)
Our little ones have so much to learn and independent (alone) play is crucial for many reasons.
The importance of teaching an autistic child to play alone
1. For your child – Your child needs to learn to do independent activities! This is so important for cerebral development. By Learning to engage in independent activities your child will be less bored, engaged in less destructive and/or non-functional behavior and have less of a tendancy to stim. (More on stimming in a moment.)
2. For you the parent – You need time to yourself. You also need time to clean, get the dishes done, to sit down, to have a coffee, and the list goes on and on… You can’t, and shouldnt have to, occupy every moment of your child’s time. Particularly as your child gets older (4 and up), it is important that he or she learn to occupy time in a fun and functional way/
Steps to teaching an autistic child to play alone
1. Enrich your environment.
In order to get your home independent-play-skills ready for your munchkin, you will need to put aside some home prep time. You shouldn’t feel overwhelmed by this. A little can go a long way! Think some key learning materials for autistic children, some labeled boxes and baskets and a special progress nook.
2. Organize each box or basket by activity.
Each box or basket should contain one activity that has clear and specific steps.
3. Label each box or basket with a clear photo that shows the activity inside.
This is how I do it at Le Chemin ABA!
4. Teach your child to interact with materials in a scheduled setting first.
This means before you can expect your little one to pick up a basket of toys and play with them appropriately on his or her own, you will need to put aside some time to teach the function of those materials at the table or on the floor in a scheduled play / work session. Prepare a box with 5-7 toys inside. Put aside, 5-10 minutes aside and show your child how to use the toys in a fun and appropriate way : for example, rolling a wooden airplane with wheels on the floor or table rather than simply sitting and rolling the wheels on their own.
5. Show your child what you expect from their independent play.
Your child will be excited to learn about independent play as it opens up a whole new world of possibilities. However, it may not seem that way at first. Your child may resist being shown how to play independent in a functional way. He or she may try to leave the situation when you are showing the steps towards functional independent play. This may leave you feeling that your child is absolutely anything but super excited to be invited into this whole new world of play! Don’t worry – it will get easier, and more rewarding, for both you and your child soon! In the meantime keep going. Keep showing what you mean by functional and independent play.
Teach your child these 5 steps :
- Choose a labeled box or basket with an activity Inside.
- Bring it to the table or floor.
- Do the activity.
- Clean up the activity.
- Put the labele box or basket away.
6. Give your child lots of praise!
When your child starts playing independently, make sure you take notice! Give lots of praise. Come into your child’s play space (bedroom, living room, etc.) and tell your child what a great job he or she is doing playing all alone. This is really important even if your child is not speaking. When teaching an autistic child to play alone, it is really important to teach skills steps by step and to offer lots of quality reinforcement!
Remember : just because a child doesn’t speak, doesn’t mean that he or she can’t hear you and understand what you are saying. Autistic children often have a hard time expressing themselves verbally but have a high level of receptive comprehension. Give lots of verbal praise. It is sure to make you – and your little one – feel amazing!
Have a beautiful day my lovely readers and talk to you tomorrow! ♥
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