10 Strategies for Autism

  1. Set the environment up for success
  • Space without distractions (TV, background noise, lots of visual clutter)
  • LESS is MORE (Choose props such as balls, bubbles, bean bags, and parachutes instead of small toys to increase engagement)
  1. Be calm, attentive, and ready to help the child
  • Our attitude and beliefs about the child are important!
  • We stay calm even if the child is upset and crying
  1. Move SLOW and add PAUSES to promote attention
  • Be curious
  • Wait for attention (OWL technique of Observe, Wait, Listen)
  • Have calm and slow reactions.
  1. Know your child’s ‘best’ performance (language or daily routine) and give an opportunity for your child to move one step further.
  • If your child gives you a cup for juice, bring the cup to the fridge and offer two choices; cup of milk or cup of juice?
  • If your child says ‘more’ for more juice, interpret their message into a more complex message: “more juice! We want more juice!”
  1. **Build upon, and introduce, ‘together’ engagement activities
  • Tickling and chasing
  • Moving together (running together, dancing together, crashing together, jumping together)
  • Singing together (We sing together, I sing this part you sing that part, finger play, instruments)
  • Joint toy play (ball rolling, balloon toss, bubble blowing, puppet eats, play cooking, toy crashing, sensory bin scoop/catch)
  • Joint creating (cooking together, art together)
  1. ‘Model’ what you want to teach (with your child’s physical presence and attention)
  • Hold your child’s hand or keep them near you as you model saying ‘hello’, and ‘goodbye’.
  • Model making requests (Pictures, signs, words, pointing)
  • Model how you wait! Share your strategies (I like to count to 10… I like to march in place and sing a song
  •  80%/20% rule; you model at least 80% of the time and encourage your child to join or copy your model only 20% of the time
  1. Use your child’s motivations!
  • Make learning goals fun
    • It is not the same as reinforcement
  • Incorporate favorite items, actions, and sensations
  1. Understand and target big picture goals
  • We want to encourage our children to have a growth seeking mindset (Try new tasks even when initially difficult, be curious about learning, be flexible to try new things)
  • Social skills and understanding of others creates a considerate person (While young children with Autism may struggle with following instructions or being compliant, our first goals are in building their awareness and social connection)
  1. Use a mindful and empathetic approach to negative behaviors
  • Restate the child’s concerns and demonstrate empathy “I see that not getting ice-cream makes you feel sad.”
  • Focus on ‘setting limits’ with positive support instead of ‘controlling’
    • “I do not like my books being thrown around.  I do not want them to break.  If they are thrown again, I will be placing them up high on the shelf to keep them safe.  Now… let’s see what pictures we can find in the book!” instead of, “Don’t throw! If you throw again you will be put in time out.”
      • It is important to tell the child what TO DO instead of over-focusing on what NOT to do
  1. Appropriately balance the daily schedule
  • QUALITY one on one time is key
    • *At least 10 minutes of 1:1 uninterrupted face to face time a day
  • Time for mental breaks
  • Balance screen time
    • Some families choose not to have screen time at all
    • Some families can find a balance and set a specific schedule around screen time
    • *Screen time should be viewed as ‘off’ time and not ‘educational’
  • Balance school and home expectations
    • While school is important, children on the spectrum need more 1:1 time with an older companion building a social connection than typical children.  If they are not particularly social in school, then time with their family will be their best daily learning opportunity.
      • School socialization goals may include: helping your child ask a peer to play, rolling a ball in a group, participating in songs and dances, sharing toys, taking turns in a game.
      • Home goals may include: holding hands and jumping up and down while singing your child’s favorite songs, playing ‘hide and seek/ boo’ with lots of laughs and giggles, reading and talking about your child’s favorite book.
        • The goal is for your child to maintain an interactive attentive span with another person.

What NOT to do?? 

  1. Don’t over-focus on academic goals. Instead…
    1. Pick goals that are social in nature
  2. Don’t over-give instructions or over-ask questions. Instead…
    1. Use teamwork! Focus on co-regulation and complete tasks together
    2. Add comments and share your perspective
      1. For language development, comments are better for expanding vocabulary
      2. Instead of ‘what do you want to play?’, model, ‘I’m ready to play a game’.
      3. Instead of ‘get the ball’, say, “we need to get the ball!”.
  3. DON’T use ‘reinforcement’ and ‘consequence’ to motivate learning! Instead..
    1. Use child’s interests
    2. Set predictable routines
    3. Inspire intrinsic motivation