13 Jul 2010
The story today is about a first grade child with autism who hated to go on the play structure or the equipments on the playground (slides, monkey bars, ladder, spinning wheel, the firemen pole, spiral pole and so on). He used to run all over the place and I couldn’t bring him to go on any of the equipments.
His reward (reinforcement) system for deskwork (in the classroom) was earning stickers. I use sticker charts that hold 20 or 25 stickers (you can buy at Target or the Dollar store). When he completed an entire chart, he earned a prize from the treasure chest. My idea was, theoretically, if the stickers system is working in the classroom, it should work on the playground too.
I didn’t want to push too much, in case the child has severe vestibular disorders. So, allow enough time for things to happen. But eventually they do happen.
One day, I talked to him before recess, and told him that every time he comes down the slide or any other equipment, he will earn 5 stickers (I had to make it interesting to get him started). He was listening, however, not quite convinced. That was a big request. I had to break it down to mini steps. So, I had to negotiate more. I told him that if he just sat on the equipment, he would earn a sticker. It worked. He progressed with baby steps.
A mother told me this story about her son with autism. He was scared from all slides and in particular the winding one. The O.T. (occupational therapist) trained him to go on the straight slide first (he worked for food, which we rarely allow at school).
To approach the child, familiarize her/him first with what she/he apprehends or avoids
Find the child’s interests and use them to your advantage
Be patient and allow enough time before change can happen
Children with autism are teachable and trainable.