In the last section, we discussed Simple Play for Toddlers and Preschoolers. This included playing with toys, toy match, borrowing and tackling spontaneous play.
In this section, we will discuss Three Tips for Free Time at School. These will include rules, lining up with a friend and fixation games.
I served in a consulting capacity for a school involved in mainstreaming. As indicated in Section 4, schools aren’t always open to full inclusion.
Mia, age 6, was just starting school. Lynette, Mia’s teacher, came to me concerned about her student’s isolationist habits. Lynette stated, "I’ll tell you right now that I’ve never had an autistic child in class. What I’m worried about is that all Mia does is stare out the window at a traffic light outside the classroom. When it changes colors she jumps up excitedly and flaps her arms. She shows no interest in other children! I've read that socially isolated children can be damaged for life, and I care about all my students."
Have you ever been involved in communications with a school? How might you have responded to Lynette’s situation?
3 Tips for Free Time at School
♦ #1 Rules
I stated, "One school of thought used to be, "The autistic child is in his or her own world and should set his or her own rules. However, I have found that children thrive when they have rules to follow. If Mia is repeatedly behaving inappropriately during free time, isolating herself, you can set some clear rules for that period. They may actually help Mia understand what's expected of that period, if the loose structure feels confusing. You might make a 'don't be alone' rule.
"Tell Mia that school is a time to play with her friends, and she needs to go find a friend to play with. I have found that many kids who isolate themselves need constant reminders and prompting to go find a friend. You may want to look for some willing peers of Mia's to assist with this. Young children tend to thrive on adult attention, and I have found that simply asking a peer if he or she can help can be a great way to get many children with autism involved. So, as much work as keeping Mia focused during free play may be, it can be helpful."
Have you found as I have, that kids respond well to rules and like consistency?
♦ #2 Lining Up with a Friend
I found it helpful to further state, "Second, Mia may benefit from lining up after recess with a friend at all times. It has been my experience that, once prompted by an adult, many children will actually look around to find a group of children to join. You or Mia’s aid, if she has one, could remind her to start a conversation with someone if one isn't already underway. After Mia has been reminded a few times, she may start remembering on her own, and gradually work that socialization into her routine. A simple, small prompt can lead to huge gains in social appropriateness."
Would you agree... that prompting an autistic child to socialize can lead to positive, friend-making behavior?
♦ #3 Fixation Games
Lynette asked, "But what can be done about Mia's fixation with traffic lights?" I stated, "Mia's fixation can be used as a foundation for a game. For example, she might respond particularly well to Red Light, Green Light. Mia might be more likely to enjoy socializing if she is playing a game that incorporates one of her interests." Have you found that incorporating a natural interest of an autistic child into a game can lead to greater socialization?
In this section, we discussed Three Tips for Free Time at School. These included rules, lining up with a friend and fixation games.
In the next section, we will discuss an excerpt of Carlin Flora’s article, "The Kiriana Conundrum," about a young woman with Asperger’s Syndrome.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Barahona, C., DuBard, M., Luiselli, J. K., & Kesterson, J. (2013). School-based feeding intervention to increase variety and quantity of foods consumed by an adolescent with autism. Clinical Practice in Pediatric Psychology, 1(4), 361–368.
Harris, B., McClain, M. B., Haverkamp, C. R., Cruz, R. A., Benallie, K. J., & Benney, C. M. (2019). School-based assessment of autism spectrum disorder among culturally and linguistically diverse children. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 50(5), 323–332.
Rispoli, K. M., Mathes, N. E., & Malcolm, A. L. (2019). Characterizing the parent role in school-based interventions for autism: A systematic literature review. School Psychology, 34(4), 444–457.
Online Continuing Education QUESTION 10
What are four tips for free time at school?
To select and enter your answer go to .