One of the challenges of working with children on the autism spectrum is to model, encourage and teach flexible play. Children with ASD tend to get “stuck” on a topic, toy or animal so they want to continuously play with that object or play out the same scenario. Since I work with several preschool boys, I want to introduce topics that typically developing boys are interested in so my little clients can be appropriate play partners.
What boys aren’t fascinated with dinosaurs? One little boy I work with is very interested in marine animals, particularly sharks and seals. In order to move him to new topics, I started out playing with him on the playground as we acted out marine animals of his choosing. Then I told him we were going to be dinosaurs. I got out my little books that briefly described different dinosaurs and asked him to pick which one he wanted to be. Then I had him select one for me. WE read a few facts about each on so we could act out their life. I was to be the stegosaurus with the bony plates up my back and the spike on my tail. He was a T Rex, the large meat eater who I would have to watch my distance with since I was a plant eater. Our other play partner was a Triceratops with his “frill” which got caught on the beam above the slide when he was at the top, ready to come down. I was wielding my spiky tail if anyone came near me.
These little books offered just enough information to fill in our pretend play scenario and add some relevant information for this little boy to play with his peers. The next day we read about some other dinosaurs and added a new one to our group.
To round out the dinosaur theme, we read, I Wish I Had a Dinosaur by Anggabratra and When Dinosaurs Came with Everything by Lise Broach.