Parents whose children have autism spectrum disorder face many challenges, like Monica Holloway. Her son, Wills was three years old when she learned he had autism spectrum disorder.
Monica did not look at the fate of the disorder, and she did not entertain thoughts how her son would function in society. But, “the day Monica learned that her lovable, brilliant three-year-old son Wills had autism spectrum disorder, she took him to buy an aquarium. It's the first in a string of impulsive trips to the pet store to buy animals as a distraction from the uncontrollable crushing reality of Wills' diagnosis.”
But that wasn’t enough, Monica proceeded to take the steps that many parents with autistic children do, learn what it takes for them to function in today’s world. She learned that engaging autistic kids with a play date works.
She offers tips that were helpful to her son such as after school play dates for children with autism and their peers. Check out these tips.
Build Skills - Help your child to develop a set of play skills. Can yourchild play nicely in parallel or engage with sensory toys? These are building blocks of first play dates.
Practice with Adults - Use role-playing to pre-teach play date activities to your child.
Find a Good Fit - Set up play dates with children who have similar interests to your child and that have play skills around the developmental level of your child, even if they are a different chronological age. Choose a playmate that is patient and kind.
Make a Visual Schedule - Draw or write out the structure of the play date in advance, considering activities where the kids will need to play together, nearby, or in cooperation, and include activities that all participants will enjoy.
Keep it Short - Keep the activity to about 30 minutes to start, and then add time once the play dates seem successful and are ready to be longer.
Positive Reinforcement- If your child is having a positive interaction, use reinforcements such as praise or a treat to reward the good behavior. If your child needs a reminder to share or play by the rules, provide coaching and encourage cooperation.
Don't give up - While it can be difficult at times, continue this process, and I believe you will see progress, as well as better social skills, from your child's interaction with peers.
Monica indicates, "Through play dates, my son, Wills, developed building blocks for many life skills, including forming strong bonds with peers. Play dates weren't always easy for him, but through preparation and organization, we learned to make those types of interactions successful, positive and meaningful for all involved," says Monica.
Monica has written a memoir titled Cowboy & Wills, which describes her experience raising an autistic son. It tells the story of the golden retriever puppy that changed Monica Holloway's disabled son's life by becoming his first friend and coaxing him out into the world.
ABOUT AUTISM: According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, autism
now affects about 1 in every 88 American children. Autism is a complex
condition that affects a person's ability to communicate and develop