Making everyday moments teachable for children who have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) might be a little bit different to teaching typically developing children within everyday moments when they ask… “Why is the sky blue?’ or ‘Why do fishes live in the sea?’
Like neurotypical children, children with ASD are also curious about the world around them. They express their curiosity in their own unique ways, which is just as fun or more fun!
Instead of asking questions like, ‘Why is paper so light?’, they might use their senses. For example, putting their hands in a pile of shredded paper, lifting it up in the air and letting it fall on their head.
As they use their senses to explore the world around them, we can help them make sense of the world by being their personal commentator. You could say, ‘paper falling’, ‘a lot of paper’ or ‘white paper.’
You could also join in and make it into a game. Copy exactly what your child is doing.
You could say, ‘Ready, set, go!’ before the paper falls.
You could take more paper, and less paper.
Or it can fall quickly, or slowly.
Share your ideas with your child after you have copied what they are doing; it shows your child that you value his/her ideas, which makes teaching our ideas so much easier.
Being your child’s personal commentator and joining in to make it a game can be part of everyday routines such as dressing and eating.
How to be your Child’s Personal Commentator
As we commentate on what our child is doing using very simple language, we are expanding on their vocabulary, which gives them more words to use and helps them understand more words that we use. In a dressing routine, you could say, ‘shirt on’ or ‘pants off.’
Keep it simple! Keeping it simple makes it predictable for your child. Over time, you might just say, ‘shirt…’ and your child might fill in the gap and say, ‘on!’
TIP: If your child can say 1-2 words, comment with 3-4 words. If your child can say 4-5 words, comment with simple sentences.
How to make an everyday routine into a game
Making it a game could look a little bit like… ‘Shirt on… head?’ (place it on your head with an expectant look on your face).
When your child looks at you, even with the slightest non-verbal communication that indicates ‘no, not your head,’ then you say, ‘not on head! Show me where?’
Give your child the opportunity to show you what they know. They may just lift a leg up to show you it goes on their leg, or they might bring the pants to their leg.
- Join in and copy what your child is doing
- Make it fun / funny. Do something that will draw your child’s attention to look at you.
- Give your child opportunities to show you what they can do!
Over time, your child will become more actively involved in everyday routines, which are all very practical self-help skills that increases their independence.
Written By: Lauren Chang, Masters Special Education, Certified ESDM Therapist