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Teaching Children with Autism Cooperation Skills through Fun Activities

Cooperation skills build the foundation of a happy life. Children on the spectrum, who acquire several important skills such as sharing, turn taking and following instructions, will have a much better chance at succeeding in school, in relationships, in group-projects/group-play and other extra-curricular activities. A great way to teach cooperation to children that have been diagnosed with autism is through fun; engaging activities while at home, in school or out in the community. Here are some activities that are sure to help teach your child on the spectrum how to cooperate, while still having fun!

To start off it is important to create rules so that you can properly teach your child to wait, take turns, and follow directions. Some great ways to do this is through activities such as cooking, gardening, and Art. Here, we break down the importance of each activity to further help you understand why they help children on the spectrum learn to cooperate.

  • Cooking – By turning cooking into a small group or family activity you are able to divide the work and have your child practice skills such as measuring flour or water, counting the correct amount of eggs, pouring liquids, stirring etc. Start off by showing them a written or pictorial recipe and work with them step by step to complete it. By cooking dinner, or baking cookies your child will learn to follow directions, wait their turn and share the responsibility of creating part of a meal that they can enjoy later.
  • Gardening – Children can be given individual responsibilities while gardening with their parents, siblings or peers. From potting seeds, planting flowers, digging holes and watering, gardening can provide the opportunity for continued cooperation for weeks to come. It is not only a one time project, but a continuous responsibility to make sure the flowers are growing, getting enough water and sunlight, and to make sure there are no weeds growing etc.
  • Art – Working on a group art project, such as a collage is also a great way to build cooperation skills. It will allow your child to be assigned a task, such as cutting pictures out of magazines or gluing pictures down on poster board and take turns picking what pictures they want to incorporate into the collage and where they want to place them.

Role playing is also a great way to teach your child, that has been diagnosed with autism, cooperation skills and helps then learn to discuss good choices. Role play can incorporate many different subjects, situations, and conflicts. Decide what you feel your child is struggling with and use role play exercises to help guide them through it, and to figure out the best possible outcome. Reenacting situations and discussing alternative responses will help your child on the spectrum become more cooperative at home, in school and while in social situations.

Lastly it is important to provide your child, who has been diagnosed with autism, the opportunity to practice these skills on their own. Some great ways to do this is to:

  • Assign your child chores, such as
    • Laundry (separating lights from darks and discussing what items of clothing go in what pile)
    • Putting the groceries away (What goes in the refrigerator? What goes in the freezer? Ask them to create a plan of where things should be put away to keep the refrigerator and freezer organized).
  • Playing games is also a great way to practice cooperation skills. Many games naturally lend themselves to determining teams, resolving conflicts, and being cooperative. When you encourage your child to play games and discuss the issues that come up, you allow them to practice the cooperation skills that have acquired. Some great games for this task are:
    • A scavenger hunt – this is a fun activity that requires collaboration and problem solving, and possibly breaking up into small groups and working together.
    • Board games and card games – can also often be made into team games that require team strategies and cooperation.

Teaching your child the proper cooperation skills will allow them to build stronger relationships, have more social interactions and thrive better in society. Take the time to help your child on the spectrum learn the proper ways to cooperate and watch them obtain the social skills needed to live a fulfilling life and reach their fullest potential.

Beautiful Minds Center celebrates Danielle Gordon for her constant desire to Improve the Lives of Others

danielle gordon

Danielle Gordon, Behavioral Therapist, Beautiful Minds Center

In the month of May, Beautiful Minds Center would like to celebrate the passion and dedication that Danielle Gordon brings to our amazing team of behavioral therapists. Her constant desire to help improve the lives of our clients and their families is a true testament to her caring nature and aspiration to help others.

Danielle decided to start her journey as a behavioral therapist after one of her family friend’s twins was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Over the years she has watched this child improve in all areas because of in-home applied behavioral analysis therapy. As a result, she decided to add a minor in special education to her communications major, so that she could acquire the skills necessary to help children diagnosed with autism reach their full potential. Her favorite part about working with Beautiful Minds Center is helping children achieve the goals that are set for them and watching their interaction with family and friend; and reactions to certain behaviors improve.

One of the greatest breakthroughs that Danielle has experienced happened after several months of working with a child who had minimal communication skills and didn’t exhibit much interaction in general. One day he was eating a piece of candy and unexpectedly turned to her and said” Danielle, would you like a piece of candy?” This showed her that he was able to connect with her and understand the concept of sharing with others.

Although there are some great breakthroughs and incredible moments that happen during therapy sessions, there are also moments that can be difficult to manage. Danielle understands that it is important for a professional like herself to keep calm and guide a child through a frustrating situation. She knows the importance of staying in control even when her client may get out of control, and that is what makes her so great at what she does. She is able to remain calm and patient. Danielle realizes that showing frustration will only inflame the situation, and even though at times she can find herself in a challenging situation, she sees the big picture and realizes how much she is helping these children improve.

Danielle notices that the more her clients improve, the more optimistic their families become. When positive changes occur everyone feels relief and hope for the child’s future, which helps them strive for greater improvements and more accomplishments. This is the type of encouragement and hope that Danielle instills in everyone that she works with. Danielle is also great at spreading autism awareness by being involved in the walk for autism, as well as sharing information on social media and informing family and friends about autism spectrum disorder, and how it affects every family differently.

Outside of work, Danielle spends as much time as she can with friends and family and involves herself in various activities such as hiking, bike riding, yoga and music. These activities help give her a sense of balance in her day-to-day life.

Thank you Danielle Gordon for your passion, positivity, hard work and constant desire to improve the lives of others. We feel lucky and honored to have you as part of the Beautiful Minds Team and know that our client’s lives are better because of the hard work you do and the encouragement you give to everyone around you. You truly are a shining star!

Providing Valuable Information through Visual Aids

Visual tools are important in everyday life. We all use them and rely on them for information. Whether it is a STOP sign, a map, a flyer, your calendar or To Do list, we all use visual tools in our lives.

When working with children that have been diagnosed with autism, who have communication challenges, or who may not be verbal, visual aids are a highly effective form of communication. They are also a great tool when applying ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) interventions at home. Here are some common ways to provide information using visual tools.

  1. Feel comfortable with changing situations – when you create a schedule for your child with autism, be sure to leave room for changes. This teaches your child more flexibility and less rigidity. Use pictures and Velcro so that you can remove things you didn’t have time to do, or move things around when the order of your day changes. If you don’t have pictures, simply use a piece of paper and a pencil. Show your child when you erase things or cross things out. These are also great tools to use when applying the principles of ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) therapy in your home. Preparing your child for shifts and changes in their schedule will prevent anxiety, tantrums and other problem behaviors.
  2. Recognizing Locations and People – One of the other tools used in ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) therapy that works very well is showing your child pictures of where you’re going, what you are going to be doing, and who you may see when you are there. Let them become familiar with locations so they know what to expect. All of this helps your child feel comfortable and prepared. It’s great to bring your camera with you to places you visit frequently (like the park, a restaurant, a friend or family member’s house). Taking snap shots of these locations, instead of using generic pictures, will really prepare your child for what to expect.
  3. Give Choices – Showing your child with autism, images of games, clothes, food etc. and letting your child choose what they want to play with, wear, or eat, allows them to feel more in control. The experts at Beautiful Minds Center recommend this technique and find that images make it easier for children diagnosed with autism to make choices because many of the are more susceptible to visual cues.
  4. Manage Time – Creating a calendar or time schedule shows your child what time and when they will be working on preferred activities and non-preferred activities and how much more time they have before they need to transition to the next activity. Many of the therapists at Beautiful Minds Center will use timers and clocks at their sessions. This helps the child they are working with understand the difference between how long 1 minute is and how long 5 minutes is and are great visual tools to use during times of transition.
  5. Communicate Rules – Visual charts with house rules, rules for playing outside, and rules for outings in the neighborhood are great tools to teach your child what they are allowed, and what they are not allowed to do. Having them posted in visible areas around the house are also great reminders.

Whether you are in session with a therapist conducting ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) therapy or working with your child on assigned interventions, giving information through visual aids help your child with autism process things in a ways that cause less confusion and frustration then verbal cues might. Actually seeing something through images or in writing gives them the structure necessary to better handle any given situation.