One of my favorite therapy activities for Autistic Children is called Floor Time Play. This is a therapy that promotes interaction between parent and child and can be done by you at home. Therapists use this as a tool to bring your child into the world of play which you get to be a part of…if invited!
This page on Activities for Autistic Children contains..
The Approach and the Milestones:
At Deal With Autism, we recommend that you try to adopt the following recommended approach and monitor the progress against the milestones
- Whenever possible, try to follow your child’s lead
- Always encourage your child to be more creative and spontaneous
- Expand the actions by trying to stimulate your child’s sensory and motor inputs
- Self-discipline and
- Interest in real world
- 2-way and/or complex communication
- Emotional ideas and lateral thinking
The Art of Opening Circles
Floor time play is often referred to as “opening circles”. A child with autism will usually have a favorite type of toy they “play” with. Many a time, you would have noticed your child obsessed with one particular toy (or a set thereof) and goes one playing with it without much external interaction. Floortime play is excellent for this type of child.
Stick to the Rules
The number one rule: is to remember that this is a session for your child to OPEN A CIRCLE; it is their time to lead the way! Not about you getting your child to play the way you want them to. It is about allowing your child to let you into their world! This may be difficult for some parents as every time we play with our children, unknowingly, we tend to be too prescriptive in terms of how we want our kids to play with us.
Initiate Parallel Play
The first step in floor time is getting your child to open the circle of play! While your child is quietly rolling their car back and forth, enter the room, sit down beside them. Pick one car and mimic what your child is doing. This is called parallel play. At this stage,
- Do not try to strike a conversation
- Do not interact with your child or his car.
Spend your time focusing on doing exactly what your child is doing with his toy.
The first try at this may be only five minutes of you mimicking your child and then leaving the room. Your child may display one of two reactions:
- Ignore you and continue to play on his own
- Stop all together and follow you
Generally, the first time they will continue with what they were doing. However, after you have repeated this a few more times, you may experience your child following you out of the room and asking you to come back and play. This is the reaction you want! Smile at your child and go back to mimicking exactly what your child is doing. Even at this stage, do not offer your opinion or suggestion on what else you both could be doing with the cars.
…. And you open the Circle
After several such iterations of such parallel plays, you will notice your child may take his car and roll into yours, a circle has been opened! Now you can stimulate conversations, something like, “Oh that hurt my car” or “Can I run into your car?“. Make it a simple verbalization. Your child may return to rolling his car back and forth and ignore your comment. Keep quiet, only make the comment once and continue the parallel play.
As time passes (it generally takes four to five times) your child will open the circle a little further and involve your car in his/her actions. He may ask, “Do you want to race?“, or, “My car is faster!” or “My car likes to crash“. This has opened the second circle as your child has let you in and is in a way asking you to play in his circle. Play by doing what your child has suggested. Make a conscious effort not make any suggestions of your own.
Watch as he Brings you Onboard
Floor playtime and opening up the circles of play should be controlled entirely by your child as a way for them to build self-confidence and slowly allow someone else into their circle. Eventually, your child WILL ask you, “What you think we can do next?“. Make a simple suggestion and do not be offended if they discard your advice by saying, “No” and pick something else to do. Remember, this is their world, their gameplay where they get to be the Boss and your job is to follow their suit and let them open the circles of communication.
There is a reason why Floortime play is one of my favorite activities for autistic children. I can guarantee that you will feel proud when your child opens up and starts playing with you (even though it may be a painstakingly slow and somewhat frustrating experience to start with), and finally asks for your opinion on what to do next and accepts your suggestion. Whether you realize it or not you have made a massive breakthrough!