While sitting at the park you begin to wonder why it appears to be so effortless for other kids to enjoy playing and interacting together when your child has a difficult time with what seems to be such an easy activity. Relax, we have all been there.
Teaching turn taking is a challenge for all kids and is even more difficult for kids on the autism spectrum. I say it is difficult but NOT impossible!
Strategies to help your child engage in turn taking activities:
There are several types of activities that involve turn taking. Rule based games are simply just board games. This is probably one of the easiest games to use to teach turn taking. It is important to teach your child the rules of the game and more importantly the outcome of the game. Since these games are predictable, children tend to understand it better because there are no surprises and they know the expectation.
You can also adapt these types of games depending on your child. If your child has difficulty with fine motor skills, you may choose different game pieces to use. There are several Iphone/Ipad applications called TurnTaker that helps prompt your child to know that it is their turn. Rule based games are also a great tool to help facilitate reciprocal conversation and appropriate use language.
Another easy way to teach language to all children is through the use of pretend play. During this time, most kids take on different roles and use these roles to develop a theme. It will provide your child with multiple opportunities to use the language that they are acquiring. It also gives them control over what happens next.
Once a “script” has been developed, it is important for you to begin to change parts of the script or involve others.
This is most commonly seen at schools or homes with other peers/siblings. I like to teach this by having two or three children working on the same project, such as a painting-but only allowing them access to one or two paintbrushes. This forces the children to ask each other for the brushes. You can also teach this by giving each child a puzzle to complete, but giving the pieces to another friend in which they have to ask each other for. If your child is non-verbal, you can teach them to point or use PECS pictures to mand for the pieces.
Tips for turn-taking activities:
- Make sure to use social stories whenever possible. Social stories are dialogues that are easy for the child to read and follow. It should be short, detailed, and specific.
- Modeling. You can use yourself or other peers to model the correct behavior.
- Visuals. Use visuals to help your child understand what is expected of him/her. It can also be used to help teach the rules of the game. Example: If playing Guess Who, you can make a picture prompting them with questions to ask (picture of boy and girl, brown hair vs. blonde hair etc).
Feel free to leave a comment with your turn-taking strategies and stories.