This past week I was asked to observe a novice player at a local preschool. The purpose of this visit was to provide recommendations for creating an inclusive preschool experience for this child and the peers.
What I observed, is what I often see when doing observations; a dedicated group of early childhood educators. The educators were clearly trying their best, but lacking the specialized training required to support the unique needs of children with autism.
I have long wanted to create a Play Groups preschool – perhaps now is the time!
In the meantime, I thought I would share simple tips for creating an inclusive preschool experience for children on the autism spectrum and their peers.
Tip 1. Regulation is the Key – Consider the child’s regulatory needs. These needs must be met first before they are ready and available for engagement and learning.
Tip 2. Match My Language – Too many words are hard to process. The rule of thumb is that we communicate with the child by matching their language paired with natural gestures, sign, and Picture Communication Symbols (PCS) to enhance language processing, and then add one word to model and enhance verbal language.
Tip 3. Behaviour is Communication – Regardless of the behaviour, it is just the child’s way of communicating their needs, wants or internal state. The best way to increase desired behaviours is to learn and use Positive Behavioural Supports (PBS).
Tip 4. I Want to Play – Even though a child may not engage in developmentally typical play, this does not mean they do not want to play with peers. They just need some help. To enhance peer play, learn the child’s affinities and use those affinities to engage the child, paired with providing the scaffolding required for the play to be successful.
Tip 5. Not About Me, Without Me – Never talk about a child in front of the child or the child’s peers – they can hear you and so can their peers.
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