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Thrive Autism Solutions Blog

Learning in Everyday Moments: Strategies to Teach through Play

Posted by Thrive Autism Solutions on Mar 21, 2018 1:00:00 PM

Many parents express concern over how to “do therapy” when their child is not in an ABA session.  Finding the balance between being Mom and practicing skills can seem impossible at times, and well-meaning Moms and Dads worry about missing out on teaching opportunities once their ABA team has gone home.  While there is often a time and a place for more structured learning opportunities, parents shouldn’t feel pressure to schedule mini-therapy sessions with flashcards at the dinner table. Incorporating teaching opportunities into everyday life can be quick, easy, and fun!

Our team at Thrive Autism Solutions suggests these three easy ways you can incorporate learning at home:

  • Create Opportunities for Eye Contact:  Before handing your child their sippy cup, favorite train toy, or tablet, hold it just out of reach and wait for your child to look at you.  If they are reaching for it, or asking but not looking, put the item in their line of sight, and move it up to your face so that their gaze moves up to your eyes.  Add an excited phrase like “Nice looking!” as you hand them the item.  This teaches your child that they get their favorite things from communicating with people and that eye contact is useful!
  • Put Words with Silly Games: You know that face you make that sends your child into fits of laughter? Or that tickle-spot that only you can find?  We therapists have nothing on that!  The everyday silly ways you engage with your child are the best moments to practice communication.  Before you spin them around in a circle, say, “Ready…set…go!” and watch their face light up as you twirl them around.  When they tug on you to do it again, say, “Ready…set…” and wait.  Allow your child to fill in the blanks to add an extra element of requesting to a fun game you’re already playing! Start with easy fill-ins, like “Ready, set, go” or “1, 2, 3” and work your way up to more complex conversation like “Do it again!” or “Keep tickling me, Mommy!”  If your little one is struggling to say the word, you can practice making eye contact!
  • Teach through Play: Just like you sneak vegetables into meals, sneak learning into play! Instead of sitting at a table peppering your child with questions, get on the floor and play with some toys.  With a barn and some toy farm animals, you can work on naming animals, colors, answering questions (Who says ‘Moo’?, What’s his name?), turn taking, prepositions (Where is the pig?, Who is behind the barn?), animal sounds, counting, singing songs, etc.  Aim for a ratio of 4 comments to 1 question to keep from turning fun play time into a boring work task (“Look it’s the cow. Here he comes in the barn! He’s eating the hay. It’s so yummy!! What does Mr. Cow say?”).

You can also check out these additional resources:

What is Natural Environment Teaching? An article from Carbone Clinic

Autism Speaks: 7 Ways to Help your Nonverbal Child Speak

Thrive Autism Solutions: Potty Training Tips for Children with Autism

Give us a call for guidance specific to your child.

Tags: Parenting, Tips