|For Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders
It is very important to model functional play with toys for your child, and to redirect her (with hand-over-hand assistance if necessary) towards functional play whenever she engages in nonfunctional activities such as staring at lights, turning things on and off, or opening and closing doors.
Recent research indicates that it is very important for children with autism spectrum disorders to acquire symbolic (i.e. imaginative) play skills, since such skills often help the child better understand higher order language concepts and social norms and nuances. Your child should be systematically taught to learn pretend play skills using a variety of toys and settings (i.e. not just in regards to trains and cars/trucks). Examples:
- Use toy cooking utensils and pretend food to teach her the pretend play skills of eating and cooking. She can also learn how to pretend to feed stuffed animals/dolls.
- Gather together towels, buckets, shovels, sunscreen, sunglasses, etc. and pretend to be at the beach. You can also lay out seashells and pictures of sea creatures and “discover” them.
- Set up a cardboard box and pretend that it’s the grocery store, post office, bank, etc. Let her fill her cart with pretend food, mail a letter, cash a check and take the money to another “store”, etc.