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Tips for Playing with Children on the Autism Spectrum


Communicating with your autistic child during play

  • Give meaning to your child’s actions
  • Adjust your language
  • Model around your child’s focus of interest
  • Expand your child’s language
  • Provide focused stimulation
  • Avoid questions

Ways to make play interactive

  • Let your child choose the activity
  • Stay face to face with your child
  • Join in your child’s play
  • Comment on play without giving commands
  • Wait for your child to engage with you
  • Control the situation
  • Imitate your child
  • Be animated

Ways to encourage your child to request

  • In sight & out of reach: Put the preferred items where the child can see but cannot access on their own.
  • Control access: Take control of the object, to encourage your child to come to you and look at you more.
  • Assistance: Use toys other than activities that child needs assistance to activate or engage. You should wait for your child to initiate for help.
  • Inadequate portions: Provide only small portions of a part of a desired item then wait for your child to ask for more.
  • Sabotage: When your child is familiar with multiple parts of an activity or toy, you could withhold a part to encourage the child to request the missing item. This strategy is only effective when your child has a concept of all parts of an activity.

Delivering an instruction to your child

Get their attention:

1. Make sure your child is next to or across from you.
2. Get their attention by moving down to their eye level, calling their name or tapping their shoulder.

For example: before giving the instruction, get down to your child’s eye level and call their name “Hi John, look here”.

Be clear:

When you deliver the instruction make sure you are clear and direct and only say it once. Use instructions appropriate for your child’s level of understanding.

For example: if you want your child to come and sit at the table you can say “sit down in chair”.

Wait for a response:

1. After you’ve delivered the instruction, wait for your child to respond for about 3 to 5 seconds.
2. During the wait period make sure you are not giving other instructions and you are giving them a chance to respond.

For example: giving John a few seconds to respond to your instruction before you say anything else.

Give praise:

If your child has responded to your instruction correctly, make sure to let them know how they did!

For example: you can say “nice sitting” or “good sitting in chair” to reinforce their positive behaviour.