Children on the Autism Spectrum often do not engage in appropriate play. Play may involve manipulating a toy inappropriately or playing with only one part of a preferred item (the wheels, for example). They may explore toys but rarely play them according to their function. Pretend play and social play are often limited as well.
When teaching appropriate play, start with simple toys and/or activities. Be aware of the items or activities that the child already finds fun. Pair new play skills with fun things! For example, if the child loves a particular movie, play the movie in the background as they explore a new toy. If they really love chips, give them chips intermittently as they look at the pictures of a new book or turn on their favorite song and give them praise as they explore a new play set. Pairing new play skills with items or activities that are already fun will make new play behaviors fun as well. It will then be more likely that the child will want to play appropriately again in the future.
Once they show interest in a new item and/or activity, model appropriate play. Show them how to push the buttons, drive the car across a track, or turn the pages of a book. If they spontaneously imitate any of these behaviors, make sure to reinforce with already established fun activities (such as edibles, praise, movies, etc.).
These tips are also beneficial for teaching social and pretend play. Pair social and pretend play with fun things! Model these behaviors and be sure to reinforce with established fun activities when the child emits any of these appropriate skills. Siblings can be an essential part of the modeling process and can help deliver reinforcing items and activities as well.
Allow the child to naturally explore their environment. Don’t force the child to engage in appropriate play behaviors as this may make new behaviors aversive. Remember to pair, model, and reinforce!
– Laura Britton, BCBA
increasing appropriate play skills
We recently did an information session and were asked a question about “tolerance”… here are some of our thoughts on the topic.
With autism on the rise (now 1 in every 50 children diagnosed) I feel it is important to help educate people about autism.
Autism is a neurological disorder that affects a child’s ability to communicate and interact with others. Autism is also a spectrum disorder so the symptoms of autism can range from mild to severe. Because autism affects a child’s ability to communicate effectively, a child may engage in “meltdowns” as a way to communicate with others. Children with autism may sometimes seem “withdrawn” from others or have a difficult time tolerating loud noises.
You may be in a grocery store and see a child crying in the aisle for a toy or eating in a restaurant and see a child covering his ears because the noise is too loud.
If you happen to be somewhere in the community and see something like this, please keep in mind the child is not being “naughty” and his or her parents are NOT bad parents or have poor parenting skills. The child may, in fact, have autism and struggling to cope with his or her environment.
Having a child with autism can be challenging at times. However, each child with autism is also incredibly special and unique! Remember, there is nothing “wrong” with a child with autism. A child with autism is just different….and there is nothing wrong with being different….because being different can actually be a good thing! So please help support children and families touched by autism and help spread the word about autism awareness!
spreading real autism awareness!
In a study, it was suggested an MRI may aid in the early diagnosis of autism, thus stressing the importance of early intervention.
The study found children with autism show a faster development of grey matter in the brain (often in an 18 month span) compared to typical children in which the process often takes many years. This rapid growth in such a short period of time may be too fast for the brain to handle and cause the brain to fail to make many neural connections. Because of this, the infant may struggle when interpreting his or her environment and instead withdraw from the world. Not until growth rate of the brain begins to slow down will the child begin to possibly use the useful neural connections and no longer use the connections that are not.
However, often by this time, the brain’s neural plasticity has already begun to decrease (causing the brain’s neural pathways to harden) making it even more difficult at this point for the brain to form new connections.
April Autism Awareness month blog series