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How to get toddler to engage in play/ explore more?

(11 Posts)
letsgooutstiiiiiiide Sat 11-May-19 02:33:56

DS is 2.5. Possibly has ASD, unclear, is having SALT sessions around play skills, and has just started at Montessori kindergarten.

It is very difficult to get him to do things like puzzles, building towers, jigsaw puzzles, games etc. This obviously means at Montessori he ends up "helping the teacher" because he lacks the skills to sit down and work through something by himself, or engage with another child.

I don't think this is because he lacks the cognitive skill to actually do the puzzles - when we do things together he e.g. can play dominoes correctly for a few turns before throwing them all off the table (so can obviously count to 6, even if the turn-taking mystifies him), he can tell me where to put a Charlie and Lola domino; and he could do shape sorter puzzles before age 1. He loved watching me do a 200-piece puzzle recently, and picked up pieces saying "that's part of the polar bear" or "those are the planets".

When we've had a playdate where another child has sat down and biddably worked through all our puzzles he has glanced over and said things like "the brain goes on the skull" (layered body jigsaw), "the koala goes in that hole" (picture-in-hole puzzle), "the four candles hold up the square" (peg shapes puzzle) "the crane piece goes over here and the fish piece is on the edge" (Thomas jigsaws). THe other child built towers with blocks beautifully - DS just wanted to knock them down (and then got furious because I told him off).

But e.g. me saying "let's build a tower with the blocks!" - he will be chucking the blocks round the room rather than try to build anything. Likewise Lego. And dominoes are thrown off the table, Thomas jigsaws are thrown at the walls, he gets grumpy and wants me to put them away...

So he seems to have the spatial and pattern-matching skills, but absolutely none of the sequencing or turn-taking or self-regulation required to actually engage with anything.

All the kids at Montessori are so self-contained and seem to have such amazing sequencing and self-regulation skills - even if they can't actually do the thing in front of them, they patiently work through it. Whereas DS seems to see instantly how to do it, then refuse to actually see it through. Which of course will do him absolutely no favours whatsoever at school or in real life!

Obviously I'm trying to work on this with the SALT, but any suggestions here?

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NuffSaidSam Sat 11-May-19 04:47:44

Do these problems extend beyond puzzles and table games? If not, I'd just lay off the puzzles for a bit. Maybe he just doesn't like puzzles? Not all children do and that's completely fine. It sounds like he spends a lot of time being encouraged to do puzzles when he just doesn't care about puzzles!

Can he commit to a task of another type? A more physical challenge? If he struggled to climb something would he stick with it until he did it? Or could he take turns kicking a football or playing tennis or bowling? Would he take part and stick with a treasure hunt with clues? Or something else that involves verbal reasoning and action rather than sitting at a table and doing a jigsaw?

secretsquirrelmum Sat 11-May-19 18:29:55

My DS has a speech delay, but hates puzzles. He will point to a piece if I ask which goes in, but doesn't actually want to do it. I think this is an interest or concentration span thing, rather than a lack of ability.

We got him a Melissa and Doug sounds tpuzzle and he loves it, will do it by himself, but it's a fire engine . He loves fire engines and this makes a fire engine noise when the puzzle is complete. So it appeals to him.

My DS loves crocodile dentist or Bunny hop games for taking turns. Short attention span. No very Montessori grin very quick games, but can teach patience for talking turns and sitting.

I'm going to say that at 2.5 I don't think sitting still is a boy thing, ASD or not.

Is the Montessori very strict in that they want him to pick what he does rather than try to engage him in something?

secretsquirrelmum Sat 11-May-19 18:30:40

Sorry it's bunny jump

letsgooutstiiiiiiide Mon 13-May-19 05:22:48

Thanks both.

He isn't particularly good at sticking with anything that he can't already do/ isn't being run by someone else. So he can have quite a long session looking at a favourite book on Dad's lap, or exploring how a bicycle works, or doing some cause and effect programming type thing on the computer with Dad. He can also tell you about something in multi-sentence detail. But if it's something new he seems unable to engage, really.

The Montessori is pretty relaxed - they do their serious "work" in the mornings, he attends in the afternoon when kids are allowed mostly to choose whether to play outdoors or pootle round indoors. He's ok with eating at a table with others, we're working up to him sitting down for story time with others.

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AladdinMum Mon 13-May-19 12:28:37

Do you think it could be an issue or deficit with attention and focus? you said that you suspect ASD but (as I am sure you will be aware) unless there is other things going on (from a social communication point of view) this alone would not even come close to any kind of ASD diagnosis.

letsgooutstiiiiiiide Sat 18-May-19 00:40:18

@AladdinMum I think it's ASD; whether it's also ADHD is unclear. I think he is bad a sequencing, motor planning, and he is very definitely perseverative.

Other things going on include: hyperlexia (multi-clause sentences, vocab of 1000s of words, reading simple words, at 18 months), perseveration (obsession with air conditioners, fans etc), sensory issues (hyperacusis, hyposensitive to visual input), motor issues (never crawled, clumsy, poor gross motor planning), lack of "social referencing" eye contact/ shared attention, complete absence of protodeclarative pointing, lack of social engagement except in 1:1 or small quiet situations (can't engage with stuff that interests him at nursery when other children are there); and a regressive course from a high around 18-20 months through about 4 months of absence of progress, irritability, increasing disengagement, strong regression around 24 months, some improvement, then over the last few months increasing good day/bad day fluctuation where on bad days he's very disengaged and perseverative.

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VaselineOnToast Mon 20-May-19 15:05:28

My son is 4 and only recently began to show interest in puzzles. Even when he does start them, he'll lose interest halfway through. He would much rather be interacting with another human being.

I'm not an expert, obviously, but it just sounds like your son is following his own interests. 2.5 is still incredibly young and in a year's time, he may be interested in building and doing puzzles, you never know.

My son's nursery had a good quote up on their notice board the other day: "Don't compare your child with others: it is like comparing the sun to the moon" wink

MummyBear2352 Mon 20-May-19 17:25:40

I would suggest letting him lead the play if he wants to knock towers down then you build them and let him knock it down, you do the puzzle but he tells you where the pieces go etc. My ds is similar and it’s not that he can’t do it it’s that he doesn’t want to normally because he finds it easy or boring. He’s now 5 and would still rather throw the puzzle pieces than sit and do one.

Also make games that involve moving do place puzzle pieces around the room so he can run about and collect them then put each piece back in the puzzle when he finds it.

AladdinMum Tue 21-May-19 12:11:21

@letsgooutstiiiiiiide you clearly have done a lot of reading into the subject, I agree with you that it does sound like ASD, absence of protodeclarative pointing at 2.5 alone would concern any development pediatrician - I hope you are in a waiting list to have him assessed. He is in the right place, Montessori methods have been known to really benefit children that might be on the spectrum.

letsgooutstiiiiiiide Thu 04-Jul-19 04:51:52

@AladdinMum yes assessment in Sept; SALT sessions in the meantime; we are also doing ESDM parent training and travelling to do blocks of ESDM therapy (nearest clinic is a decent plane ride away) every 4 weeks.

He has got much better at sequencing now. Montessori really seems to be helping with giving him the ability to work through things - eg can mostly now play a whole game of dominoes corectly, build a jar tower, build random things with Mobilo, make a little electronic circuit to switch on a lamp. Sometimes he even does puzzles but he still seems to be very anxious and cranky about them.

In the ESDM assessment he had joint attention/imitation skills of a child <1 but receptive and expressive language, cognition etc of a child >5. I am really quite worried about the JA/imitation and its effect on learning, particularly as my delivery of ESDM seems useless so far (zero success with anything other than making DS grumpy) but I guess we are doing everything feasible bar moving countries...

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