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How to encourage DD to play independently, and more interested in play generally?

(45 Posts)
brightbelle Thu 22-Sep-16 08:56:41

Hi everyone, I am hoping to get advice on how to encourage my ASD DD to play independently and generally to be more interested in play.

While I know I should spend a lot of time with her to engage and teach her, as she's still minimally verbal, it is important to me that she can engage in meaningful play herself even for a while so I can cook and do some house stuff. If I don't engage her in play or any activity she may just lie down 'playing' with a sheet of paper or some random objects/ wander around home/ look out of Windows, but I can't leave her alone like this as I feel like I'm not doing good enough and it's a waste of time. When I need time to do own stuff I will take out play houses or books or different toys with a hope that she will engage herself with them but she would usually pay limited attention and quickly move into her own world. She is a quick learner if she's on 1:1 with an adult and on things that highly motivate her - I've thought of hiring a person to just play with her or do the housework for me but it's not affordable with therapies school fees etc.

Also generally speaking I feel that she's disinterested in so many things that I find it difficult to engage her. Is there any way I can broaden her interests? Her carers at different nurseries and her speech therapist had described her as intelligent and bright, and it pains me to think about how she can progress and build on her potentials if she can't even play effectively without adult support.

Many thanks!

zzzzz Thu 22-Sep-16 10:25:26

Perhaps what you think of as play doesn't interest her? Why does she have to play in the way you want her tooconfused

My husband loves to watch sport. I doubt I've ever in nearly 30 years watched a game with him. It bores me rigid.

PolterGoose Thu 22-Sep-16 10:53:04

If she's happy playing with, manipulating and enjoying random objects just provide lots of interesting things for her. Go for walks with a bucket and collect stuff with her, look for interesting things when you're out and about. Don't force your ideals about what's useful occupation of time on her. She already knows what she likes. And don't feel guilty, she's happy, that's the most important thing.

Ds's favourite thing for a long time was a pink washing up brush grin

PolterGoose Thu 22-Sep-16 10:56:35

One of the most important things we can do for our autistic children is enable them to be happy in themselves and confident to do the things they enjoy and not what 'other people' think they should be doing. Suppressing one's self to appear like everyone else almost always unravels, sometimes dramatically so.

Cakescakescakes Thu 22-Sep-16 15:04:07

My son has very little interest in toys or playing as such but he has a box of random little things that he loves to handle, sort, line up and examine closely. It's everything from badges to kinder egg toys to key rings, conkers, pine cones, mini slinky, egg timer, tiny torch etc. Basically any random little object that comes into the house goes in the box. He calls it his treasure chest and can be transfixed for an hour with it. But to anyone else it isn't 'playing' and they aren't toys but it's really satisfying for him.

Cakescakescakes Thu 22-Sep-16 15:04:19

And it's very portable!

PolterGoose Thu 22-Sep-16 15:20:13

Cakes ds had a box like that for years, his 'box of tat', only later did I realise it was pretty much a sensory toolkit!

PolterGoose Thu 22-Sep-16 15:21:29

There's actually a name for this sort of play, heuristic play smile

zzzzz Thu 22-Sep-16 15:42:55

Are you looking for
1) babysitting?
2/3) De stressing time for her or you?
4) Education through play?

Or
5) to teach her to mask her autism and present as more nt?

PolterGoose Thu 22-Sep-16 15:45:22

Good questions zzzzz

Laurajay84 Thu 22-Sep-16 16:15:20

My DS is 3 and has asd. He LOVES boxes full of 'bits and pieces' for him to look at closely and go through one by one. He doesn't do this all the time though - he also does puzzles, loves interactive toys, books, toys that make sounds and music. I can leave him playing by himself for up to an hour and he won't get bored.

Between 18 months to 2 and a half, he wouldn't do anything but run around and look at books. Things change so much over time.

Mollyweasley2 Thu 22-Sep-16 21:20:45

Oh Brightbelle, you seem a very caring and dedicated mum. You are putting a lot of pressure on yourself to get your DD to engage. Although it is important that she gets to know the NT world, it is equally important that she enjoys the autistic world (or her world). I have Asperger's, I function well in the NT world but my world his amazingly important to me, I wouldn't want to be prevented from accessing it in my free time: it is both relaxing and fun!
So relax and comfort yourself: when you are doing your chores, DD is probably having a great time!

Bananasinpyjamas1 Thu 22-Sep-16 23:11:50

Well she might be a little young, but activity boxes are worth a try. They are boxes with something such as matching cards, or jigsaw or squares. Basically anything that is a motivating for your child as possible. What does your child like? Her favourite thing? Start with that.

The idea is that you spend a bit of time with say, if you kid likes trains, get a small train set and go through in very, very basic stages of train on track, 'choo choo'. Well whatever might engage them. Then you show them how to play. If your child can imitate, get them to follow what you do.

Then you make a card with the stages of how to play with pictures in a sequence. 'Train out, track on floor, train on track, train goes, choo choo!' You practice that with them until they get it.

Then you put the card in the box with the train pieces and eventually they learn how to play themselves...

PolterGoose Fri 23-Sep-16 07:04:28

That's not what I would call play Bananas, surely that's just being taught a routine.

Bananasinpyjamas1 Fri 23-Sep-16 20:46:06

Well it really helped my child expand his play, which he then began to take in a creative way never before seen on his own. Like a stepping stone.

But yes polter I'm probably just deluding myself and should just leave him in a corner to stim all day!

zzzzz Fri 23-Sep-16 21:39:04

Oh don't fight.sad. I don't know what's happening on here at the moment but it's all so scratchy.

If I'm honest I don't really rate learnt routines, because that's the sort of play my ds does as a stim. So for us that's not real play for us. I'm intrigued by how negative everyone is about stimming though. We all do stuff to chill and while a nt child might enjoy pretending to feed a baby or chug trains round a track I don't see why that's "better" than stimming. Surely it's just nt kids show casing the stage they are at and Nd kids showcasing where they are?

As an aside I taught myself to stim this year. Really interesting.

Bananasinpyjamas1 Fri 23-Sep-16 23:58:27

Well I'm quite put off posting or offering up practical suggestions that have helped my child be happier.

I don't think the OP was saying 'I don't want my child to stim ever'. They wanted to give their child more options through play. More choices. More possibilities. It's up to the child whether they are motivated enough to want to do that. If they don't they won't. Simple as that.

I've no idea why people have turned this into a derogatory and mean put down of parents such as myself and the OP as if we are trying to change autistic children into 'normal' children. Just by asking for suggestions to expand play! Jeez.

zzzzz Sat 24-Sep-16 00:15:01

I really don't think that's what's been said banana confused

One of the real strengths of this board is the different takes on things and different responses. Doing something different, querying or even disagreeing about what the result is, isn't a criticism.

brightbelle Sat 24-Sep-16 00:24:32

Thanks all for the replies and useful advice, very much appreciated!

zzzzz your question did make me think, thank you for that smile I certainly am not attempting to teach her to mask ASD and present more as NT, but I do believe in learning through play and that being able to play functionally is one of the prerequisite skills for speech and other areas of development such as cognitive. What worries me is dd lacks motivation to initiate play, and in general unless guided and accompanied by an adult she is unable to play herself. When you can get her attention she seems to enjoy playing a lot of different things, say for example she enjoys sitting with me playing her mini park, with my guidance and prompts, but if I leave her alone with the park she probably would only play with a few items and move away quickly and wander around. So I think what I am looking for is how to encourage/teach her to make a leap from guided play to play independently, as I am keen to see signs of growing independence.

Yes Polter you are right that I shouldn't force my ideals onto dd. I am still rather new in the SN road and always an impatient and very self driven person so maybe I am really a bit over demanding on both myself and dd. Her happiness is very important to me, but at the same time I do believe everyone sometimes needs a bit of push to achieve further. I can see she can be a quick learner if provided appropriate support and as her mom I think it's my duty to try as hard as I can be. I adore her and love her so much and respect her as an individual but to be honest I would love to see her to be able to integrate into the outside world. I am sure she will be loved and protected while I and DH are here, but what's to happen after we're gone if she's not able to communicate functionally or live independently - this is my ultimate worry.

zzzzz Sat 24-Sep-16 00:53:22

to be honest I don't think any of those questions where things I would find an unreasonable goal. It's just that my suggestions are different depending on what you want to achieve.

I'm not particularly a got-to-be-able-to-pass-as-normal person (which I suppose is a blessing as it's not an option really), but I do steer ds towards things that are less "othering".

I have no idea how typical ds is. What I do know is that he does much better if I don't push him and that the echolalia and the stimming are part of his learning and not a waste of time. They are not just time fillers and he is not just zoning out.

ds is 11 now and talks quite well, and is a loooooong way from where he was as a toddler. He did his biggest leaps when he was happy.

brightbelle Sat 24-Sep-16 01:08:46

Cakes and Laura thanks for sharing your experiences. Dd does have a box of little random things, but as said in my previous post I didn't make it clear in my original post - sorry indeed - that it's the fact that she needs somebody to sit with her to engage her all the time that makes me worried. I think when she was younger she was able to entertain herself looking at/exploring different objects for a longer time than now confused

Bananas thanks for your idea! It's encouraging to hear that your ds can now play creatively himself smile Dd obviously lacks pretend play skills and what I'm doing now is demonstrating to her how to 'play'. I have been thinking about whether she will be able to do that without my guidance and hearing your success now I am hoping that with persistence someday she can initiate play herself smile

Thanks much for your kind words Molly. My dd is quite significantly delayed in speech and communication, and while I would allow her to have some time for her own - I know every child whether SN or not needs that - I do hope to make the most use of the time to help her progress. I believe I can be a lot less worried if she is able to communicate functionally wink

Frusso Sat 24-Sep-16 14:21:26

My daughter was very much in her own world as a toddler. it's only recently (at 8) that her language has made a huge jump and with it her 'play' and ability to play with others has taken a jump too. but it didn't take constant interaction to achieve, sometimes she just needed down time and being in her own world in order to process what she had learnt.

I think there has to be a balance between getting them to engage with you and play with you, and just leaving them to engage themselves in something that they want to you. so if you're wanting 5 minutes to run the hoover round, then unless she's getting herself in danger or causing havoc whilst wandering, (dd used to do things and create havoc at times, but less so now --that I've hidden the talcum powder--) then for those 5 minutes you can let her wander.

if you're looking to use play to develop communication then games that encourage turn taking, waiting, and you doing something her doing something, would help to teach those basic language skills.
equally you could use her interests in helping her develop language, so her wandering, showing fleeting interest in objects and looking out windows could be something you could use in order to develop her language skills. if she's gazing out the window, you could go stand/sit with her and tell her what you see out the window, and just give a verbal running commentary on what she is doing/seeing, describe the objects she is picking up, is it sharp/soft/smooth/smelly/ the colours etc

Claennister Sat 24-Sep-16 18:04:35

>>When you can get her attention she seems to enjoy playing a lot of different things, say for example she enjoys sitting with me playing her mini park, with my guidance and prompts

To what extent does she relate to the emotional states of others? It could be that she enjoys making you happy by playing with you, and when you quit the game she wanders off just the same as you wouldn't stay at a swing park for your own enjoyment after a child has got tired of it.

Perhaps what looks like enjoying the game is more that she's enjoying interacting with an important person in a way that makes that important person smile? And stay! If you've already left, there's no need to carry on doing that thing that makes you stay, so why not go back to tapping on all the glasses in the house to see what noise they make, and other things that NT children don't usually play.

She may, of course, truly be enjoying the games you play, she may be more interested in whether or not you are engaged with it. Girls on the spectrum are great ones for doing whatever makes a dominant personality happy, because that looks just like friendship.

Have you tried giving her play ideas, and also rather than just either staying or going, an intermediate step where you pop out of the room really briefly. So maybe you play with the Lego bricks (or whatever) and if she shows an idea you could say "wow, yes, we could stack them", copy her for a bit, nip to the loo, come back, either congratulate her great progress in your absence or if she's not continued try "Now, where was I, I was stacking my bricks". If she's onto something else with the bricks, tell her you're going to do that next when you're finished stacking, if she's away, tell her you're out of ideas how to play with the bricks now, can she help you. If she won't come back to them, leave it.

My DD loves lists and instruction cards. We'll sit together and make a list of ways you can play with a given toy or play set. We leave the list with the toys to remind her as she genuinely just forgets! Without a reference or another child to encourage her, she'll just fall back putting dolls in a line, then two lines, three lines, back in one line again... Helps that she's old enough to read, though.

What about other children, how does she do with company? A NT child might be able to guide her in the ways of play in a way that's much more natural than how adults imagine children should play. Other people's children are free to borrow!

zzzzz Sat 24-Sep-16 18:26:01

I feel really uncomfortable reading how prescriptive some of this is. What is it you are trying to achieve by teaching play this way. (I am baffled not trying to be rude at all).

PolterGoose Sat 24-Sep-16 18:46:50

"A NT child might be able to guide her in the ways of play in a way that's much more natural than how adults imagine children should play."

What's more natural for a neurotypical child might not be natural for an autistic child.

How a child should play is how they choose to play, as long as it makes them happy, surely?

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