I’m sure we all agree that it’s a lifelong skill that’s important to have. Turn taking is a part of positive social relationships, helps to build friendships, and is crucial for communication -- conversation is an exchange of information.
For parents and teachers alike, the typical go-to for teaching this skill is to yell out, “You need to take turns!” Some common times we find ourselves saying this phrase over and over:
-playing with a toy
-playing a game
-during a conversation/when to talk
Well, if you are reading thing, I’m assuming the strategy of calling out “Take turns!” hasn’t been very effective.
Why does my child have a difficult time with turn-taking?
Turn taking actually requires the development of a few skills. Without having a good foundation in the following skills, taking turns will be difficult.
Theory of Mind - This is the skill of understanding that someone else’s thoughts and feelings might be different than your own. Research shows that is typically develops between 4-5 years old. However, for individuals with autism, ADHD, and other social communication challenges, this skill can be delayed. You will need to help your child understand that people want different things and think differently. Social stories and direct teaching can be helpful.
Example: “You like to push the train and Marcus likes to push the train. You can take turns. You push the train around the track. Then Marcus pushes the train around the track, and then you push the train around the track.”
Understanding non-verbal communication - If a child has difficulty with “reading” emotions, it can lead to difficulty with turn-taking. Reading non-verbal communication is a skill. Looking a facial expressions and body position can give clues to how someone is feeling, but this need to be taught directly.
The ability to wait - The idea of waiting can be very abstract. Sometimes waiting is just a few seconds and sometimes waiting means days or weeks. The more you can help your child build this skill, the better they will be with taking turns.
Social understanding of turn-taking - Does your child understand the “rules” of turn-taking? Some of the rules include: While one person has a turn, I will need to wait. I will get another when the other person’s turn is finished.
Can you see some problems that might happen? Your child might wonder, “When is the person’s turn finished? How long do I have to wait? When is it my turn?”
How to successfully teach turn-taking.
1. Show, don’t tell.
Use visuals. This can be a picture cards that shows “my turn,” “your turn,”or “wait.” It can be a chart or calendar to show when “who gets to go first.”
Use a timer. Understanding that their is a time limit helps make waiting more concrete. One of my favorite tools is the Time Timer(see below). It shows time moving. You can also use a countdown board.
2. Teach your child how to wait. Again, there are tools and direct methods you can implement to help your child with this essential skill. I will teach this skill in another post, but in the meantime, here are a few tips.
Start slowly. Begin with an activity that naturally provides a back and forth rhythm. Cause and effect toys are great for this! A toy train that you have to push the smokestack for it to move, a hammer and ball toy, or a music activated toy. Pair your words with a visual of “wait,” or “my turn, your turn.”
Praise your child when they are waiting. Maybe your child loves the bathtub. As the water is filling, show your child a “wait” card, and comment enthusiastically, “I like how you are waiting!”
3. Teach your child how to handle emotions.
Waiting can be very frustrating when you want something now. Acknowledge and validate your child’s feelings. “I know waiting is hard. Let’s take 3 deep breaths (or jump 5 times, etc…). You are doing a good job waiting!”
4. Practice. Practice. Practice again.
Learning to take turns develops over time. Be patient and find every opportunity you can to practice and generalize the skills needed for turn-taking.
Quick ways to practice taking turns!
Where does your child struggle most with taking turns? Share below in the comments and I’d be happy to give you some direction.
Now, let’s go play!!
*Please note: Community Inclusion Consulting, LLC is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com
This date is usually synonymous with setting goals.
At your child’s IEP meeting, goals for your child are always discussed. However, do you have other goals you wish your child could master outside of school?
Daily, I hear people overwhelmed with what they want their child to achieve and they feel urgently about all of them. It usually sounds something like this:
“My child doesn’t know how to share. He has some words, but doesn’t use them very often and when I tell him he needs to let his sister have a turn, he will start screaming and punching his head with his fist. I want my child to start using his words and control his anger. He also needs to learn how to share.”
Well, here’s how you can help your child achieve any goal...
Get clear on the goal.
In the example I mentioned previously, there are MANY goals - sharing/taking turns, using words, managing emotions, and possibly sensory regulation. In my experience, most people have multiple goals lumped into one and don’t realize it. I get that you want to solve the whole problem, but to do that you need to do a few things.
The fastest and most effective way to achieve a goal, is to be crystal clear on what you are trying to achieve and break it down.
Let’s use the example above and work through how we break down a goal.
We’ve already established that there are multiple areas that can be possible goals: sharing/taking turns, communication, expressing emotions appropriately, and sensory regulation. Let's start in the first area.
The parent stated they wanted their child to learn how to share. Specifically, they want their child to take turns. Turn-taking can be different than sharing. So, let’s focus on turn-taking. Part of turn-taking is also having the ability to wait. If the child doesn’t have this skill, we need to teach “wait” first. (To teach “wait,” you will need to tune in for an upcoming blog post!)
Now, let’s move to another goal area. “I want my child to express their emotions appropriately.”
My question would be, does the child have the understanding and skills on how to control their anger? Teach your child how to manage their emotions. You will probably need to provide some replacement options for some of their behaviors. You can teach your child to stomp their foot, punch a pillow, say “I’m really mad,” or walk away when they are feeling angry. Practice these strategies and remind them of the appropriate strategies before an event that might cause them to be angry.
Continue in this way through all the areas. For each goal area, you keep breaking it down and determine the skills needed to achieve the goal.
By working in small, incremental, measurable steps, you will be empowering your child to achieve any goal.
Here’s to crushing goals in 2019! 👊🎉
If you are feeling overwhelmed or not sure how to break down a big goal, reach out or ask in the comments and I can help!
Wide eyes, a bright smile, an excited squeal.
It’s what we hope our children will experience when opening up a present, right?
However, for many different reasons, this might not be the reaction you receive. I want to give you ideas on how make gift-giving (and receiving!) a fun experience for everyone. Keep reading to get specific ideas on how to bring a big smile to your child’s face.
The first place to start is your Why. Why do you give a gift? Most people are giving a gift because they want to bring joy and happiness to someone else. If this is your reason, be sure to keep this in mind throughout the whole process of gift giving.
The process of gift-giving?
Yes, it is a process. You first decide what gift the receiver would like, then you present the (wrapped) gift, the gift is opened and, hopefully, appreciated. So let’s break it down and discuss ways we can make this a great experience by addressing doable strategies in each step in the process.
Choose the right gift
Give your child a gift your child will like.
Think about what your child will enjoy and not necessarily what you want to give. For instance, you might remember how much you loved unwrapping a big present to find a scooter or massive coloring set. You might be thinking, “But I really think s/he would like it if they tried it.” If your mind starts wandering to these types of thoughts, remind yourself of your Why.
The gift is about your child.
Children with autism usually have strong interests in particular topics or activities. If your child loves to shred paper, why not buy them their own shredder! Or, if dinosaurs are their interest, find puzzles, socks, books, backpack, sleeping bag, … or anything dinosaur related.
Presenting the (wrapped) gift
Are you wondering why I put wrapped in parentheses? Typically, when we give a gift, it comes wrapped so it is a surprise when we open it. This can be problematic for children with autism for 2 reasons. One, many times individuals with autism have fine motor difficulties. I’m sure you have opened a present or two when the gift giver used what seemed like a whole roll of tape. It can be a bit frustrating. Frustration is the last thing we want to cause when opening a present! A second possible problem with a wrapped gift is the “surprise” aspect. Have you ever opened a gift that you thought was going to be one thing, and it turned out it was something unexpected -- that you didn’t really want? Typically, most people with autism like routine and predictability. Opening a gift can cause a lot of anticipation and anxiety.
Ideas for wrapping
1. Choose wrapping that will interest your child. Attending to an activity (even opening presents) can be challenging for a child, so by bringing in their interests can help bring them into the activity. Using the theme of dinosaurs, why not wrap the gift in dinosaur wrapping paper? Think about the Why! Even though dinosaur wrapping paper might not “go” with the rest of the presents, isn’t it about making your child happy?
2. Make it extremely easy to open the present. Use gift bags instead of boxes. If you are wrapping a box, use a small amount of tape and leave off ribbons and ties.
3. Don’t wrap the present.
Say whaaaaat???? Yep, if wrapping the present will cause anxiety, worry, confusion, or frustration - why wrap the present? It will still bring your child joy when they see you bring out the gift.
What could possibly go wrong here?? Ummm, just a possible sensory overload meltdown! Lots of people, sounds, smells, social rules, and overall chaos. Think about your child’s needs and abilities and have a plan. Some possible ideas:
1. Instead of a free-for-all opening of the gifts, make it more orderly.
Write down who is opening presents in order:
2. How many gifts can your child handle opening at a time. If it’s just one present, let it be. If there are many gifts for your child to open, figure out times throughout the holiday season that your child can open their presents. Make a schedule and share it with your child. For example:
Christmas Eve - open present from grandma & grandpa
Christmas Morning - open present from Santa
Christmas Afternoon - open present from nonny & papa
3. Have the gift in a “ready to go” state. Some items are tied down in the packaging to the point where even Houdini would have difficulty getting it out! Take the items out of the package, put the batteries in place or set up other pieces and then wrap the gift.
Saying, “Thank you”
I am all about teaching manners and showing appreciation to others, however, because of the difficulties some of our children have with understanding social norms and learning social skills, I do think we should be aware the best time and place to teach these skills. Talk with family and friends ahead of time to explain why expressing thanks might be difficult for your child. Hopefully this will end the unsolicited advice on how you should parent your child.
Possible ideas to show appreciation:
Whichever holiday you celebrate in the winter season, it is usually filled with a variety of activities and traditions. I want to help you enjoy the holiday and share what you love about it with your child.
So, I ask you -
What is the one thing that would make you happy this holiday season?
Watching your child open up a present by the tree Christmas morning?
Going to church/synagogue/mosque with your whole family?
Decorating the tree together?
Lighting the candles in the menorah together?
Instead of trying to tackle all of your plans and hoping things will turn out how you want, or giving up on your usual traditions and assuming your child can’t handle it, I encourage you to pick one activity that you would like your child to participate in that would also bring you joy.
Once you have chosen the activity, think about how you can structure it to make it manageable and enjoyable for your child as well. It might look different than what you envisioned and that’s okay.
Here is an example.
Decorating the tree together
If this is what would make your heart sing, think about ways to structure this activity so your child can participate and enjoy the experience. Adding structure to an activity provides a child with lots of information. Let’s say your child has a short attention span and doesn’t seem to have a big interest in the tree. Make sure you have the basics set-up before asking your child to join. This would mean that the tree is already in the stand, the lights are placed on the tree, and the ornaments are ready to hang. Give your child a specific job. Put the ornaments you want your child to hang on the tree in a separate container so they can visually see when they are done. If you have placed 8 ornaments in the container, your child is finished when the 8 ornaments are on the tree.
Other things to consider - do you usually listen to Christmas music while your decorate the tree? If you think this could cause too much stimulation, maybe this year you don’t listen to music while decorating. Or, does your child like one particular song? Then maybe you play this song on a loop as you decorate the tree. It’s called, pick your battles!
Choose a motivator - decorating a tree might be very fun and rewarding to you, but it might not be to your child. Use First/Then to help motivate your child. First - decorate the tree; Then - eat 2 Christmas cookies (or open 1 present, or play with Legos).
Holidays provide us with hundreds of moments to create special memories. To help you enjoy the holidays with your child, remember the words from Winnie The Pooh…
“Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in our hearts”
Winnie The Pooh
For someone with autism or sensory sensitivities, October 31st can be more of a trick than a treat. Halloween includes lots of textures, sights, smells, sounds, and tastes. Also, the daily routine will probably be different. Be sure your child enjoys Halloween with T.R.E.A.T.S.
Read a social story
You know your child best. Honor their individuality and be sensitive to their needs. Think about what’s going to happen at school and at home and have a plan. At school, will there be a parade, a class party, or treats? Reach out to the teacher and work together to make the day enjoyable for your child. If your child is on a restricted diet, can you send in a very special treat that they will enjoy or can you make an exception, with limits, for the day?
Read a Social Story
A social story can help a child understand and cope with a social expectation. Halloween has plenty of situations that a social story can help if implemented correctly. The story should focus on one aspect that your child struggles with and should be written to target that specific issue.
I had a former student who did not like any cartoon characters -- not any!
Spiderman, nope. SpongeBob, nope. Snoopy, nope. Dora, nope. Arthur, nope.
To say that Halloween was a challenge is an understatement!
I wrote a Social Story that we read daily for a few weeks before Halloween. His parents read him the social story to him as well. The social story addressed why he did not like the characters and why other people do like cartoon characters. It also gave strategies that he could use to cope with seeing people in costumes. By Halloween, my student was able to use his coping strategies to enjoy Halloween. He even walked in the parade! (He wanted to be first in line so he didn’t have to “see” the other characters.)
During the holidays, much of what we do comes from what we experienced as a child. Either we want our children to experience what we experienced, or we want to make it “better” for them. Be aware of why you are wanting (or expecting) your child to do something - like trick-or-treating, or dressing up, or going to a holiday party. Is it something that will bring them joy or happiness or is this an expectation you had from your youth (or because everyone else is doing it, or your sister said you should,...).
Also, communicate expectations - with visuals! - clearly to your child. If you are go trick-or-treating, your child might think that it means going to one house. If you have other children and you are planning on going to multiple houses, make sure your child is clear on how long you will be trick-or-treating or how many houses you will visit. Another example is the expectation of candy. Communicate clearly the expectations. How many pieces of candy can your child eat? When can they eat it? Is certain candy restricted? When you are able to be clear on the expectations, everyone is happier and the possibility of a scary Halloween meltdown is lessened.
Adding structure to activities provides a lot of information. And by providing information, you decrease worry and anxiety. And by decreasing worry and anxiety, you increase calm and appropriate behaviors.
There are many ways you can add structure to activities. You can make a visual schedule of the daily activities. Depending on your child’s age and functioning level, this can be with pictures or words.
For example, a schedule for after school might show:
Ideas for adding structure to eating candy:
To add structure to any activity, think about: what, when (the order), how much, and when is it done.
You know your child best and know the what bothers them. Use this information so you can give them the supports they need to be regulated and have a fun Halloween. Once you know where your child might struggle, you can then use the supports above to address their needs.
If your child is perseverating on Halloween, maybe having a calendar with Halloween clearly marked will help with regulating their anticipation.
The holiday can add a lot of stress, so maybe you can also consider being more relaxed on some of your typical expectations. In other words, don’t add fuel to the fire. Your child might be very dis-regulated after having a busy day at school, so maybe you don’t need to insist that they hang up their backpack, feed the dog, or share about their day.
I don’t know about you, but just the thought of putting my hand into a slimy, room temperature pumpkin makes me want to gag. I also can’t stand the smell of raw pumpkin. That said, I love pumpkin pie and everything pumpkin spice. For me, pumpkin is a love-hate relationship.
Halloween can be sensory overload. To help your child cope with the sensory aspects -in any situation - the best thing you can do is to address it before it becomes a problem. I like to think of it like getting prepared for a change of weather. If I’m prepared ahead of time, I will be much more comfortable and it won’t cause a problem. So, if it’s raining outside, I can plan ahead, wear a raincoat and bring an umbrella to stay dry. If I don’t address the possible need ahead of time, I might be cold and wet.
Most O.T.’s will tell you that holidays call for sensory activities and tools to help calm the body. The activity and supports you put in place will depend on your child’s individual needs. Some usual “go-to’s” would be deep pressure activities.
Some examples of deep pressure and calming activities -
**Disclaimer, the recommendations made are from researched-based methods and are meant to be general strategies. Please consult your therapists or doctors for specific recommendations.