Teaching DS with ASD how to play / Preparing for Preschool - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 6 Old 06-08-2013, 10:53 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Brief background info: My DS is almost 3 and has a mild ASD- he is verbal (very echolalic but capable of original and spontaneous language), affectionate and pretty bright. The vast majority of his therapy takes place at home with me.

 

So I've been doing floortime with my son for some time now and I've found that this has vastly improved his communication skills. I think I've been focusing on his language and communication in everything I do with him as this has been my greatest concern and obviously the issue that makes the most difference for us at home. However, in putting so much focus on this I think I've neglected another important component and now that DS will start preschool in September I'm kind of panicking about his social and play skills.

 

So lately I've been trying to switch gears and focus on imaginative play and generally learning HOW to play with the many, many toys we have that DS loves to fiddle with but doesn't properly play with, as well as work on skills and language that will help him facilitate play with the other kids. DS does go to playgroup and to a gymnastics class that is "play based" and we go to the playground all the time- but he doesn't really play with the other kids. Up till now I thought it was beneficial for him to just BE at these things and around other kids and that he might pick up things being around them or be motivated to try playing with them. But no such luck.

 

I do know that in kids with ASD these things do have to be taught... but I'm really struggling with how to do this. I really want to give him the best possible start at preschool- it's not a special ed preschool or anything. As far as I know he will be the only kid with ASD. It is a teaching preschool (attached to a university, the teachers are highly educated professionals who also teach early education and the uni students are assistants in the classes) so they are happy to have DS and work with his us as a learning experience for their students. It's not ideal but it's the absolute best we could find for DS here.

I'm looking for any ideas or resources that will lead me in the right direction. How do I teach him to PLAY with things and with other kids? I try to model how to play with his toys but that rarely holds his interest. We don't really have close friends/kids for him to "practice" with in a controlled setting here. 

His social skills need work too- he often gets way too close to other kids and is inappropriate with touching etc. and he hasn't yet learned how to great them or initiate interaction etc. I'm getting a social stories picture book and hoping to practice this this summer. 

All this social stuff seems so overwhelming as for the longest time I was focusing on language and communication. I thought THAT was difficult... but I'm actually a language teacher so maybe I had an easier time with it. This social skills and play stuff is really throwing me for a loop and I just don't know where to start or what to do. And I'm only just realising now that these will be the hardest things for DS to get a handle on as he grows up. (I know, DUH...) I need to get a move on it.

 

Also...any other tips for getting DS ready for preschool? What did you find really helped your little ones as they started out in the real world??? It's so scary...

 

Thanks as always...

 

ETA: anyone know of a social skills book or video for preschool aged kids? Most I've found are for older kids... Jed Baker etc...


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#2 of 6 Old 06-09-2013, 06:19 AM
 
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Hi expat-mama.  First, I just want to say that this is a scary time of letting go and trusting for any parent and child, not just for a parent with a child who has ASD!  The first day of my son (and daughter) at preschool, they happily joined the group, and I went off to the car to cry my way home....

 

I think most of all, I want to encourage you to trust that your son's social learning will mostly take place "as it's occurring".  You can do some preparation, as I am sure you will, and you can do work with him after school around typical situations that occur in school.  But, many 3 year old's lack a respect for body space, don't know how to approach one another, and often still parallel play with their peers.  Where it's different for a child with ASD is "how" he learns his social skills.  Kids without ASD will intuit other's reactions and adjust themselves as they mature.  But still, this is a process that takes time and some guidance from adults.  How kids with ASD learn their skills is through explicit training, which, also takes time, and requires the right experiences to facilitate. 

 

Both kinds of learning, can occur together, in the classroom and outside the classroom, as he's in school if you have a good group of teachers to help you. 

 

My son had a wonderful time in preschool, it was play based, and he was highly motivated to learn social language and join into the group.  He didn't pick up these skills until he was 4 though, which, I think in general, is a pretty normal developmental track. 

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#3 of 6 Old 06-13-2013, 10:56 AM
 
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I am in pretty much the same situation as you. My little guy is not officially diagnosed (still going through eval process) but we've been doing floortime and OT since January, and speech for about 18 months.

What our FloorTime consultant has told me is that part of the role of true FT is to help the child feel more comfortable with social interactions and to practice. As they hone their skills with us, they will branch off to other adults and eventually to kids. We are supposed to create opportunities for them to practice the skills with kids. But it's not until they feel safe in their new found skills that they will branch out, and that is where we come in. The more floortime we do the more sound they feel in engaging NOT just communicating.

My son is to the point now where he goes up to other kids and will parallel play, or simply jump up and down in front of them as a greeting (-; He chases after the bigger kids at church now, but his legs are too short so he's always one step behind. He still loses a lot of his language when he tries to play with them though. It's a process.

I was wasting a lot of my floortime trying to TEACH my son thing for a long time until I researched real floortime and learned that I was going about it all wrong. The more time you can spend really engaging him, following his lead and cues, the more enjoyable he will find the company of other human beings, and the more he will want to engage others. I was using floortime to teach skills, not realizing the skills will come naturally if I focus on fun and engagement.

Hope that helps a little.
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#4 of 6 Old 06-13-2013, 01:21 PM
 
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expat-mama, our son isn't on the spectrum so our experience might be different, but DS does have a severe language delay that has caused some social delays as well. 

 

He started preschool last year and I had many of the same concerns.  However, the thing that has taught him how to play the most has been, playing.  I'm totally not being flippant, honestly the first half of the year was really hard for him, but constant exposure coupled with his desire to play means that he now actually initiates and engages with the other kids on a regular basis. 

 

The other things that I do think has made a HUGE difference has been getting him some floortime.  I wanted someone who could come work with him on social pragmatic language and all of the therapy is play based, so he is getting all this direct language and behavioral modeling.  I know some parents do it on their own, but I was overwhelmed by trying to do floortime with DS and, even though it is insanely expensive, I've been really happy that we hired someone to come help us.  It has also given me ideas about how to engage with him when we are on our own. 

 

Hope that helps :)

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#5 of 6 Old 06-13-2013, 10:17 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the replies!

We live overseas and don't have a lot of good resources available in terms of therapy so I'm doing the best I can on my own. I think if DS was a more serious or "classic" case I'd be on the first plane home to sign him up for everything available in our home country. This is the plan if we ever think that things are not working. 

 

DS definitely interacts with kids in the playground and the pool- he is interested in them and wants to engage and play, he usually doesn't really know what to do exactly. He chases and runs around with them when they are running and hangs around them having fun but not anything more than that. I get that 3 year olds still don't play like older kids do, but I do see that they play with each other in a way that my DS doesn't yet. 

I guess Floortime is good at encouraging and creating motivation for communicating and interacting but yeah, I do think play skills are something else and need to be taught. That's what I'm wondering about really. I know he will pick up some things just being at preschool and the other kids will be great models for him hopefully.

 

I'm still thinking lots about this. I came across this post on accepting the different kind of play that kids with ASD do on this blog: http://life-with-aspergers.blogspot.ae/2011/01/accepting-child-who-doesnt-engage.html  Accepting the Child who doesn't Engage during Play. It is very much worth reading- I am loving reading blogs and books by adults on the spectrum, it is so eye-opening for me and it is really helping me open my heart to my son in new ways.


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#6 of 6 Old 06-16-2013, 09:28 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Does anyone have any suggestions for general preparation for preschool?

 

We are going to take photos of DS's teachers and have them handy this summer while we read books about going to preschool. We're also going to talk to his teachers and try to get an idea of the schedule and activities they will normally do and try to familiarize DS with these as well as ask them for common "scripts" they often use with the children when transitioning to different activities etc. ("line up to go outside", "time to wash our hands", "it's circle time"). As an echolaliac it will be helpful for DS to master some of his own scripts that he can use too, so I'm going to work on some with him to make certain requests etc. I think we'll try and take pictures of the different parts of the school that he will be in too and go over what happens in each of these areas. And of course we are really, really trying to finally finish toilet training. We've also been having some behaviour issues recently that I hope we can address. Ack. It'll be a busy summer. 

 

What was something you did that helped your ASD child adjust to a new school? 

 

DS has never been away from home or me for anything like this before. I'm so worried it's not going to work out- either he won't adjust or they won't be able to handle him. crap.gif I just really really want it to work and I want him to have fun and like going (eventually... I know it might not happen at first).


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I'm a biracial, atheist, humanist, pacifist, anarchist, bibliophile, and educator. Rainbow.gifgd.gifwinner.jpgnocirc.gif

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