Hi everyone! I just wanted to make sure you know I have a pinterest page that is FULL of games you can play with your child to work on social goals. There are lots of ideas to spark your own creativity or give you something easy to do. Make sure to modify them to include your child's motivation and goals. Let me know if you need any help. Happy Playing!
Need some help thinking of pretend play ideas to work on attention span goals with your child? I sat with my own daughters and came up with a list of ideas to try. Feel free to comment below with more good imagination games! Happy playing!
Imaginative Play Ideas
I try to frequently send out tips through social media. I feel I am lucky to know a lot of great techniques to help connect with children with autism and I like to share what I know. Recently I opened up Facebook and this is what I wrote:
I love playing. I love finding kid's (and adults) motivations and then making them laugh and laugh. I love finding any interest and then making it more interesting and then finding ways to help kids practice skills while helping them get more of what they want. I love convincing people that they are powerful and capable of anything they want, whether it be kids or parents. I love helping adults connect to their kids and kids to their adults. I love the silence and contemplation of kids with autism just as much as the engagement and laughter. I love the new moments and seeing kids see and hear and experience themselves do new things. I love building confidence and love and trust. I love love. I love my job! Have a great weekend! Hug your kiddo for me!
I didn't originally intend to publish it, but letting myself go on and on about what I love about my job was fun and it left me feeling really excited about what I do. If you are ever feeling "stuck" in the playroom or a little unmotivated give yourself a moment to write out, type out, or even leave yourself a voice memo going over what you love about playing in the playroom. You will find that once you start yourself thinking about fun and uplifting moments you are opening up your brain to think of even more fun moments. This then helps you to envision future fun moments and might even bring some ideas to help with those future fun moments.
Regardless, the more hopeful and excited you are the, more you help your perception of having a fun and inspiring play session come true. Your enthusiastic attitude in the playroom is a wonderful and enticing model to your child of how you can be in life if you choose. It will also help them play longer, try harder and help both of you have more fun.
Hello wonderful friends, I’ve missed talking to you all. I have been traveling the country and visiting special friends all over the place. Just recently I had a new addition to my extended family, a nephew was born. As I was holding this beautiful child I started thinking of all the things I would love to share with him and what kind of world I wanted him to experience.
Then I remembered a Q&A I did with a family who had a variety of different therapists working with their child and how they asked me all kinds of questions about what tasks I was focusing on with this little boy, what did I want him to learn? I told them I was focusing on the relationship, and I wanted him to learn that people were “cool” and the world was a fun place to be in and that was the most important thing to teach him. I saw them all nodding their heads and scribbling notes as if a light bulb just popped on, to think that liking people might be more important than stacking blocks, what an awesome concept!!!!
I smile now, but it really is an important concept to remember. Autistic children have a hard time in our “real” world. People are not predictable, or easy to understand. Other things are so much more controllable. One of our most important “tasks” when working with these children is to show them how easy people can be, how fun, how helpful, how worthwhile it is to share time with another person. I want you to always be thinking of what kind of world you are showing your child. I hope that it is one of joy, excitement, and of course love.
Wishing you all a happy holiday season!
Let's talk boundary setting. I hear all too often "But I'm not supposed to say "no" in the playroom!"
Yes, it's a child-led room, but you still rule the house and are ultimately in charge of decisions. If there is ever something that you don't think is safe to you, your child or your property you can certainly adjust the situation. I have to set boundaries all the time with children and it never affects our relationship when done comfortably and confidently.
The first step is to make a decision. Decide what your boundary is and stick to it. Try to be as comfortable as possible. Remember you are setting the boundary to keep everyone safe and be confident in your decision (if you are not, your child will know and may button push.)
2. Explain the boundary to your child. ("It's ruining the markers when you chew them. Keep them out of your mouth or I will take them away.") The more straightforward the better so it's easier for your child to process.
3. Offer an alternative. ("Here, you can chew on this chew toy instead. Its safe for your teeth.")
If your child follows your suggestion celebrate him/her for cooperating to keep everyone safe and healthy!
4. If your child persists with the behavior, take the item away and put it high on the shelf until the end of your session. (If your child fights you trying to hold the item just hold the other side of the item and neutrally hold onto it until your child lets go.
Remain calm and consistent (make sure the whole team enforces the same boundaries) and it shouldn't take your child too long to remember the boundary.
Of course each scenario is different, if you have questions, please ask.
If you haven’t yet had the opportunity to volunteer in an improv/social skills acting class with a group of extraordinary actors who also happen to have autism, I would seriously recommend it. It’s the fastest 45 minutes you will ever experience!
When Bonnie Neumann, founder of Drama Interaction wrote in my Minnesota autism and play group on facebook about her theater class for children with special needs, I had to find out more about it. I had read some research recently into how theater programs had helped children learn social skills. I have always loved theater (probably why I have no problem playing with a child while being videoed and watched by a team of staff.) I called her up and offered to volunteer in order to learn more and see how it works. I am so used to working with children one on one so the idea of a class of children with autism seemed a bit daunting to me and I wanted to see how it went.
Bonnie is the perfect blend of cheerleader, facilitator, show person, people allower, and theater coach. She grew up in theater, starting dancing when she was young and continuing to perform her whole life. She designed the adaptive theater class many years ago with the help of Special Education Teachers. Bonnie wanted everyone to have the chance to experience theater and it just so turns out that theater gives everyone a chance to act out and process some of the little nuances of human interaction. Thus it makes the perfect class to work on social skills too!
The class followed a schedule that Bonnie customized for each day and allowed the students the opportunity to have plenty of movement while they acted. It included activities like body warm ups, voice warm ups, tongue twisters, acting out emotions, acting out things that happen to you, theater games, improv games, practicing lines, acting out skits. Each week built off the last week’s skills helping students ease into learning a performance.
The staff was partly professional staff and educated volunteers. We participated as well in order to model the exercises and of course have fun. There was enough staff for lots of encouragement and occasional individual attention when needed that didn’t distract from others. Everyone was really accepting of everyone’s sensory needs and allowed for each person to stim/ism/take care of themselves and when appropriate encouraged them again to participate.
I was blown away on the very first day by the amount of enthusiasm, participation and creativity of all the students in the class. I helped out in 2 classes, one for children younger than 12 and one for teenagers between 12 and 18. The students were all over the spectrum although they were all verbal. The classes were 45 minutes each. While they followed a schedule, the classes varied a lot, the energy was often intense, and the concepts were all fairly new to all the kids. Even so all the students did fantastic! When it came time for add on storytelling at the end – I have never heard such creativity and big picture thinking. It was incredible!
I think a lot of the fun and ease of the class goes to the incredibly accepting atmosphere that Drama Interaction puts forth. We all were totally okay with whatever happened, if a student needed to run a bit, that was okay, we just gently brought them back. If a student had a sensory meltdown there was no pressure to change and participate. The students and staff did a great job supporting each other at exactly the stage they were at.
I think this sort of class would be rather easy to start for those who have some expertise. I know it could help children everywhere if there are those generous souls who would be accepting enough and confident enough to look into these programs. Bonnie certainly seems willing to help all she meets.
For those near the Twin Cities of Minnesota a new class is about to happen with Drama Interaction. You still have to time to register. Classes start next week, January 12th and there are various times throughout the metro area. Here is the link for more information http://www.cokartscenter.com/dramainteraction501c3.html I know I will be back sometime in the future, its also mega fun to volunteer!
In the meantime, I have always considered playroom time with your child as a sort of improv theater. We are always modeling social skills through fun and excitement in the playroom. Children learn and process best through play and experience. The more excited we are to play with them, the more they will learn. So the next time you go into the playroom, tap into your inner actor and amp up your animations. The more expressive you are with your body and face the more engaged your child will be and the easier they will be able to interpret your body language.
Okay, its been a while since I have last blogged. A long while I know. I just wanted to show you a picture of the cuties I raise while I'm not chatting with you guys. Okay, maybe I have not been chatting with you here - but I've still been chatting with you on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, not to mention all the emails, consults, video feedbacks, and in home services. I mean how many hours do you think I have in a day? Running a business (even part time) and running a family is not for the unorganized. I mean, you guys know this.
I consider running a home therapy program a lot like running a business. I know what you do is tough stuff: you organize, you recruit, you train, you stay on top of paperwork, you track progress, analyze data, and create new team goals. That's only a fraction of it. Its a lot of work, I get it. I always tell parents, once they reach the end of their home program with their child they will have amazing CEO skills!
As tough as it is to do all the ins and outs of parenting and running a home program, its easier when we remember why we do it. For our child/ren. We sacrifice a lot, so that we can do the best we can for them. One day perhaps there will be a program out there that can accomplish what you can at home in your playroom - maybe - but think about what you are asking someone else to do.
Listen if you know of such an organization who can promise this - let me know I'd love to see it. I'd love to create my own center that strives for this one day. However with legal insurance requirements, IEPs, school politics, it is difficult to get the level of care from anyone that you could get from a loving, committed, parent (and team) at home.
I know teaching your child at home is not the easiest thing to do. I know you sometimes feel isolated, and definitely in the minority. I know because I'm doing it myself with my own preschool girls. Other stay at home Moms do exist, but amongst the norm, we are rare. Then obviously there is a difference between being a stay at home Mom and running an autism home therapy program, suddenly those one-on-one hours become a necessity instead of a desire.
The best news about an autism play-based home therapy program though is that more hours of play therapy add to a childhood instead of take it away. The other good news is that with a home therapy program there is help at home - you just have to find it! Autism is a hot field right now and young professionals are craving experience with children with autism. Connect with a local college, university or even a high school and see how you can help these students gain invaluable experience and influence the future field of autism for the positive all while getting free quality help for your child. (You can also tap family, friends, and willing volunteers looking to make a difference) If you feel you need more help training your team - that's what I'm here for. I'll back up your expertise to your team and help customize your program with techniques specific to your child.
While staying home to teach your child through play may not be the mainstream thing to do, I will always agree that its the best education you can give to your child until they are ready to handle and enjoy school. If you can really get behind your decision to stay home with your child than that will free you up to also really enjoy your time playing with and teaching your child. Of course being organized helps with this too. When you find great strategies for that, send them my way. (Oh speaking of which, research bullet journal, its an easy system to keep yourself on task, although you may need a bigger calendar ;)
Okay, I better go back to being a Mom now, my few moments alone are up, lol. One of my girls is always hungry.
Email me if you need anything, I'm not sure when I'll have extra moments to blog again.
We often laugh in our home as we rehash events that took place in the playroom, but today I couldn't stop laughing enough to tell the story. I had brought in a game I had made, including a book titled with stickers that said "SUPER SPELLS". However when I first walked in, the beautiful boy was holding himself and wiggling. I offered him the toilet, when he looked at me I again reminded him that he could put his pee in the toilet (pee being an American word, English folk might say wee). He said "P?" I said yes, let's go put our pee in the toilet. He then proceeded to take the letter P off of my spell book and put it in the toilet! I had to giggle, it was so sweet.
My friends with autism has been so literal this week that it has been a challenge for him to stretch his imagination to symbolic play. I was often told today that objects were not what I was saying they were. "That is not a fire hose, it's a drum stick", "that is not a map, its paper", "that is not a screw driver its a bubble wand". Every time I would agree with him, and suggest we could pretend it was the new object. Most of the time that idea was shot down. This did not mean I could not try again. What I love about the playroom is that the child always has full control, but I can always try again later! And even if it doesn't happen today, there is always tomorrow!
Wishing you all a fun and persistently challenging day!
The founder of Inspired Spectrums shares her tips and experiences in working with children and adults with autism. Word of caution: she is occasionally sentimental and this is often reflected in her blogs :)