He took me right to a big cardboard box on the floor that was laid sideways with both ends open. He announced that it was a tunnel. I got out my Fisher Price little people and vehicles, let him chose a figure (Papa) while I took the Mama and we started our play and conversation. The goal was to have him engage in conversation using his Papa figure while I talked back with mine, moving him from what could be perseverative behavior or talking (in relation to the tunnel) to flexible language. Therefore I set up different play scenarios, one at a time, to encourage flexibility.
After a chat, he ran his car with Papa through the tunnel and I put out a slide for a playground. He turned Papa over on his tummy and started to count to 10 and we were playing hide and seek. I got so excited! When it was my turn to hunt for Papa, I modeled different places to look–“Is he under the slide?” “Is he behind the bike?” Then I added a prop or two for his turn to see if he would generalize and use them for hiding places too. I continued to model, pull back and let him respond, add a prop or two and expand the play.
As we continue to play, I see progress in his ability to follow my models for play and occasionally add a novel action. These are little successes as my friend learns to play pretend.