During the last few years in our telehealth center, we have seen many videos with parents trying to maneuver between playing with their child with autism and the demand for attention from their siblings. Many have approached us saying it is very challenging to implement the strategies with siblings always around. To that we always reply: Great! We encourage parents to implement what they have learned in their natural home environment. This enviotment obviously includes all their children! But we don’t just stop with a general encouragement, but also provide a concrete advice. This advice is called: Organization for collaboration. You can take advantage of the situation to encourage communication between the children.
When the Children are Very Young, the Use of this Strategy is Very Simple:
- Find something your child with autism likes.
- Instead of holding it yourself, give it to his/hers brother or sister.
- Teach the sibling to wait, and give it only after your child with autism tries to ask.
- Make sure the brother or sister gives the item for each attempt to request.
- At first you will need to be a little more involved, explain and maintain this new framework. But with time and practice you will be able to take a step back.
An Example- Shiri and Hillel:
For example – in the following video, Shiri and Hillel were only two and a half years old. Hillel really liked orange juice, so his parents took a syringe and filled it with chocolate. But here’s the twist – the syringe was given to his sister, Shiri. The next step was to teach Shiri to wait, and let Hillel have the juice only after he asks. The profit was double- Shiri learned how to play With Hillel, and Hillel learned that it is fun to talk to Shiri.
Additional Ideas for Older Children:
As the kids get older, the this strategy becomes more flexible, which is already a topic for an entirely different post. But just to give you a “teaser”, here are two examples.
- When playing with train sets, you can be decide that one of the children is responsible for the curved tracks and the other for the straight tracks or bridges.
- When making a cake you can decide that one of the children is responsible for holding the recipe and reading the ingredients, and the other is responsible for bringing them to the table.