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Managing Attention

Strategies that help children with autism learn these skills:

(for a game that can help a child learn the skill or more information on the strategies suggested, click on the links)

  • Child will become more aware of others and what others are doing
    • Using little predictable routines so as to become more predictable (Click, Click, Click Game)
    • Becoming the source of things that the child enjoys
    • Exaggerating facial expressions
    • Using an expressive voice
    • Interrupting routines
    • Imitating the child (Drum Imitation Game)
    • Expectantly waiting for a response after trying to interact with the child
    • Using visual rather than verbal communication (pictures, demonstrations, gestures)
    • Using music including a more melodic voice, funny and repetitive sounds
Additional Links: Come Play With Me
  • Becoming interested in playful social interaction
    • Being playful while interactive
    • Talking less and using predictable language
    • Demonstrating simple (not too many steps) playful routines
    • Being observant and noting what the child enjoys and using this information
    • Adding an enjoyable sensory experiences to play (i.e. swinging, jumping, tickling, water play)
  • Shifting attention rapidly between people, activities and toys
    • slowing down the routine so that it it not so rapid and then gradually speeding up as the child can successfully shift attention
    • using an indrawn breath, a more emotional voice, or an exaggerated facial expression to draw child's eyes to your face
    • playing games where looking at someone or listening to someone is part of the game
    • reducing or eliminating competing distractions (i.e. turn off television, remove toys that are not being used in the game, reduce the number of people in the room)
  • Paying attention when routines change
    • providing information about when routines will change including visual schedules, transition songs (e.g. Clean up songs)
    • Making clear endings to one game or activity and then a clear beginning to the next activity (e.g. saying "All done ______, Time for ______" with each activity having a name that is always the same)
  • Paying attention when the topic is not a preferred topic or the game is not a preferred game
    • Start to teach a child to pay attention by interacting with the child using preferred topics or playing a preferred game
    • Integrate new topics or games gradually but keep some aspects or elements of the preferred topic or game (e.g.
    • Let the child know how long you will be talking about a non-preferred topic or playing a non-preferred game
  • Noticing what a play partner is looking at, doing, feeling, and trying to accomplish
    • play games where noticing is part of the game and required to accomplish the goals of the game
    • pre-teach language skills needed to understand what others are doing, feeling, or trying to accomplish
    • model noticing what others are looking at, doing, feeling and trying to accomplish and model this in such a way that the child can understand that is what you are doing