CSLOT’s occupational therapists attended the Occupational Therapy Association of California (OTAC) annual conference inSacramento in October. We had a blast conversing with occupational therapists from across the state, attending informative and dynamic presentations, and hearing all about the latest research in the field. We were privileged to attend a presentation hosted by Susan L. Spitzer, PhD, OTR/L, an internationally know pediatric occupational therapist, who outlined some creative and fun strategies for playing with children on the autism spectrum that we would love to share.
- Spitzer challenged us to step down from our role of “authority figure” when playing and minimize directing behavior during play. Let the child take the lead and hold back on using directive language such as “try this; put that here; go over there”.
- Enter into the child’s sensory world during play. Many children on the autism spectrum process sensory information differently than we do. Seek to understand what has captivated the child’s attention during play and share that experience with them. For instance, if the child enjoys the visual effects of pouring dirt, enter into their sensory world and “feel” the experience along with them. For example, comment on how cool the clouds of dust look when illuminated by the sunlight. During play sharpen your conscious awareness of what you see, smell, feel, hear, and taste.
- Use your voice to convey excitement and fun during play. Use a playful tone by varying the pitch, volume, and rhythm. Use songs or melodies during play. Even try talking in silly voices (a robot voice for example!) to captivate their attention.
- Help the child work through challenges in play by modeling how to effectively work through them. For example, create contrived challenges during play and talk the child through them. For example, intentionally leave out a puzzle piece and say “Oh no! I am missing a piece. That’s ok. I still had fun even though I do not have all of the pieces”.
We had such a wonderful time at conference and are thrilled to share our experience with the entire CSLOT community! We look forward to sharing some of the highlights from next year’s conference.
Spitzer, Susan L. “Creative Strategies: Working, Playing, and Children with Autism”. Occupational Therapy Association of California. Sacramento, CA. 14 Oct. 2011.
Rosie Commons, MS, OTR/L