When I arrived at the home of one of the kids I work with who is on the Autism Spectrum, I saw a long tunnel he had made out of cardboard blocks that ran the length of the room. Mom said he is into tunnels these days. I admired his architectural structure and then gave some tips to expand his play. Kids who are on the autism spectrum can get “stuck” in their play on certain concepts or objects such “holes,” “tunnels,” “switches,” or a specific play person such as the “king” or the “alligator.” When this happens, parents and therapists have to be creative to keep the interest of the child but model flexible play that might include what he is so interested in, but expand on it and grow his language.

Mom had thoughtfully added cars to bring in some action. Best to include cars or vehicles that hold people for some interaction and conversation. I suggested she take a few more blocks and build a structure at the end of the tunnel for play such as a parking garage, or a restaurant or a house to go to after exiting the tunnel. The object is to take advantage of his interest in the tunnel but then expand the play with something related to it. Bring the cars through the tunnel and then have your people stop in for lunch.

Think of scenarios that will encourage story telling and creative play. Continue to model conversations and stories, pausing to let the child imitate or expand on what you are saying.