Beautiful Minds Blog
Finding activities that motivate your child on the spectrum can be a struggle. Parents and professionals often search for inspiring ways to get a child with autism to complete a difficult task or improve their behavior. Below you will find some resourceful ideas that can be used to inspire your child in a difficult situation. Since all children on the spectrum are unique, please take these ideas as guidelines and feel free to adjust any of the concepts to fit your child’s interests.
- Interests: Find out your child’s interests. Are they interested in video games, specific topics such as animals, trains, cars, or specific television shows? Topics and activities that interest your child can motivate them to complete tasks that are either difficult or do not interest them.
- Rewards: Is your child working on a large goal such as potty training, brushing teeth, dressing, etc. If that is the case, use what interests your child and give them a reward for a job well done. Creating a chart is a great way to motivate your child to stick with larger goals. For example, every time your child goes on the potty, or follows the step-by-step instructions to brushing their teeth, you give them a sticker on their chart. At the end of the week if they have 5 or more stickers then they get a prize. Working towards a reward can be very motivating for children on the spectrum.
- Helping Roles: Some children on the spectrum are motivated by being allowed to help their parents with tasks they like to do. Giving your child a choice of which reward they can pick is a way to let your child feel grown up and learn that helping can be fun. When children on the spectrum are engaged, they are able to stay focused and occupied. For Example, if you have a child that runs from you, tell them that if they hold your hand all the way home they can (a.) help make their favorite dinner or (b) bake their favorite dessert.
- If/Then: Other ways the staff at Beautiful Minds Center has found that helps keep children who have been diagnosed with autism motivated is through the if/then scenario. For example: If you finish your homework, then you can play outside; or when you finish cleaning your room, you can watch TV. This method has also proved very effective in motivating children to complete tasks that are less preferred. By allowing them to do a favored activity after completing a less favored activity, you motivate your child to complete their tasks and reward them with something they either love to do, or asked to do.
There are many ways to motive children on the spectrum, the best thing to do is to find what interests your child and uses these interests in creative ways to get them to complete tasks that are difficult or less preferable. Also try to keep using rewards instead of consequences. By creating a positive environment, you help your children grow and learn instead of pushing them away from unwanted tasks and causing frustration. Get creative with your ideas and think outside the box. The more creative and fun you make the process, the more motived your child on the spectrum will be.
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, 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!