This YouTube video demonstrates some great skills for caregivers of young children with autism to learn when it comes to encouraging joint play and language skills. A few of the highlights:
- Imitate: One of the best ways to establish a connection with a child with autism is to imitate their actions. Imitation is a core deficit for children with autism so trying to get your child to imitate your actions may often be unsuccessful and frustrating until they have mastered that skill. Instead of trying to get your child to imitate you, copy what they are doing and you may be surprised with the outcome!
- Reduce your language: It’s often our first instinct to think we should inundate our children on the spectrum with lots of words and asking questions to get them using more words. Instead, focus on a few key words relevant to an activity your child is interested in. Make sure to follow your child’s eye gaze so that you know you are giving them words that correspond with what they are looking at. Also, don’t forget to include words other than nouns – action words (“up!”, “go!”) and exclamations (“uh-oh”, weeee!”) are often great words to focus on because they are motivating and fun.
- Choose related toys: If you notice your child enjoys putting items in and taking them out of a familiar toy try to find other toys that have this feature and show your child how to use the new toy. Other aspects of toys that a child may be drawn to are spinning things, items that roll down, and noise making toys. Don’t be too disappointed if you think you have discovered a perfect toy that your child will love only for them to show no interest, that has happened to even the best teachers many times!
I think the most important aspect that the video shows is that “intervention” should be fun for the child and can be implemented by any person – not just therapists and teachers!