Why Teaching Play is important at all levels
Yesterday after presents were opened, I watched my daughter look at her play kitchen and happily place and stack items in different compartments. This was her basic play interaction and fascination with a new toy. But, as I watched, I realized (again) that play is not magical. Many families with learners with autism and other intensive needs may believe if only my child could…. However, when I watched Alison look, touch, but not really integrate or connect the dots of object affinity to sequential action, I did what most parents do and therapist moms do all of the time.
- I got on the floor;
- I modeled;
- I put her in my lap;
- I showed her;
- Guided her hands;
- I was silly;
- She was curious
- She watched;
- I guided her hands again;
- I helped her expand her interest and brought her into an expanded world of play.
And then I snapped this picture. For me, but mostly for you.
Here is what you (parent) should remember in the midst of wanting more ability and skills for your own child.
Play like most other skills is learned. It is taught and expanded upon…for every child. Out of play and within play lies the modeling of interest, sustained play and attention, fun, language, physical regulation, and speech. This modeling may require at times varied levels of cueing including physical guidance and redirection. It is all in a days work. This skill shaping and operant conditioning can be fun and interactive. It can be taught and modeled by you as a parent and as part of any sound therapy program (speech-language, ABA, social group).
I also wanted you to know that toy selection can be tough and a challenge for many many reasons. And once you buy the toys, you still have to teach them how to use them. And this teaching can be repetitive in verbal instructions and in showing them how.
This type of learning does not always occur automatically with learners with autism. Teaching play is an equal opportunity experience. The difference is that some may need more help or more instruction with others. But the wonderful thing about play is its room for flexibility, its interaction, its welcoming creativity and imagination.
So, keep playing with your little ones and big ones.
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Happy Holidays from all us at Momentum!
~Landria Seals Green, MA., CCC-SLP, BCBA