Today I arrived at the home of one of my students who is on the autism spectrum. We enjoy playing games, playing pretend and reading books for learning.
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.