Monday, October 26, 2009

Capitalizing on Your Child’s Interest

Guest Post by Allison Norgard BS
Graduate Student

Each of us has a favorite thing that we love at almost any time on any given day.  Whether you have a sweet tooth or a special hobby, active involvement in that interest always sparks your attention.  Children with Autism also have specific interests--perhaps an interest in dinosaurs, or the presidents of the United States.  It could even be a favorite color that captures a child’s attention.  You can use a child’s passionate interests to help that child develop joint attention skills.

Even if it feels like your child has a very narrow interest, you can still use that interest in many everyday social routines.  For example, a child in this clinic showed a strong interest in the letter ‘w’.  We discovered this while playing with a simple frog toy that spits out letters. We quickly realized that ‘w’ in all contexts was way more interesting to this child than anything else in the room.

Once we identified the child’s interest, we had to find ways for ‘w’ to pop up in his daily life.  It seemed tricky at first, but once we started with one idea, it became much easier.

Here are some ‘w’ activity ideas:

  • Use letter shaped cookie cutters.  The ‘w’ cookie cutter can be used in actual foods such as pancakes for breakfast, or for fun at the table with play-doh.
  • Use ‘w’ during bath time by cutting one out of colorful foam. 
  • Make ‘w’ magnets to put on the refrigerator, the filing cabinets, and other creative places around your home and then go out together to collect them.
  • Many children love mirrors; use white board markers or shaving cream to write out ‘w’ on mirrors. 
  • Take blankets or pillows and make a giant ‘w’ on the floor of the family room.  Than you can tickle and squish with the pillows and add some sensory fun. 

As you can see, ‘W’ can become part of any part of the day.

As you can see, ‘W’ can become part of any part of the day.

Although it might seem small and narrow to focus on an interest like ‘w’, you can use a focus like this to teach virtually anything. If you want to work on a language goal rather than joint attention, you can take the ‘w’ and mix and match it with other concepts to build language.  The “w” can come in different colors, sizes, textures.  The “w” can be hidden in various locations that you can name. You can use one simple interest, at many different levels to help a child with autism no matter what the child’s developmental level.  Following your child’s lead by noticing what interest him or her.  When you share in your child’s excitement and interests, it will become much more motivating and rewarding for him or her to play with you.

Here is a letter game with "w":

1 comment:

Karyn said...

Good example of how any interest can be used as a motivator.