Learning is important for all children. Parents of autistic children can engage in a variety of activities at home to strengthen academic success and competency. We as parents are our children’s first teachers. It can be complex with working with a special needs learner; however as parents we can’t be intimidated. All children love to learn. It’s our mission as parents to tap into our children’s learning needs, strengths, and weaknesses to help them reach their highest potential of success even through their learning disabilities.
Working With Our Little Learner
Our daughter Paris loves to learn. She is an auditory & visual learner. She listens and watches carefully to what’s around her in helping process the information giving. Music has been away to reach her with processing the basics of learning her alphabet, phonics, numbers, and etc. She also likes hands on activities that are sensory related. She learned the basics pretty early, and although she doesn’t verbalize often in communicating she speaks very well when being asked a question relating to what she likes. She loves watching the early Pre-K learning videos on YouTube. She watches the videos on her age approved tablet. We have to limit her to 45 mins to an hour because she can become very absorbed. I found that old school flash cards helped her identify many objects to increase her vocabulary skills. I placed different cards around our home to help her to communicate. I found having her switch to mini stations of a variety of activities limited to 3 stations for 15 minutes helped her stay focused. She does like to climb, bounce, and open cabinets so the learning station for her is at eye level for easy access. I also allow her to participate in activities and events throughout our community where she can socialize, learn, and collaborate with other toddlers that are not specifically special needs. She participates in field trips with her peers, and she does discovery field trips with us as a family. Paris is way beyond a picky eater, so we challenge her with exploring new foods through introducing them in her learning sessions . I work very closing with her classroom teacher and special needs teacher to see what they are learning at school to piggyback at home. Our common goal is for her to be more independent. I speak openly with them about her growth in areas, so they can add more challenges for her to accomplish. We also share her weakness that she needs to work on both at home and at school to help her meet those areas successfully. She has a daily schedule and learning center at home that she looks forward to.
Our biggest hurdle has been social interactions. This past year Paris along with her twin sister participated in ballet. Paris actually enjoyed dance more than her twin sister. She did the dance moves with help occasionally from a sweet devoted assistant. She has loved dancing at home ever since. I saw her for the 1st dance in an assembly. She got every move! We joined an autism support group for her to meet other children. She enjoys it. She is more trusting with her peers now since beginning a half day program. Her class is very warm and friendly. They help assist her; I notice that her peers include her in play activities. She doesn’t have a conversation back, but she does play more near them in proximity. She does the same at home with her siblings. She may not speak in having a conversation, but she does like to play close to her siblings. Paris doesn’t speak much, but she notices if she is being left out. She verbalizes through touch, and she occasionally will have a meltdown if she finds herself frustrated in trying to get the words out. We encourage her to speak by saying the short pharse of what she wants, we then ask her to repeat the word before following through with her request. She speaks very clear and articulate .We are taking it day by day in seeing her grow in communicating.
Paris keeps us on our toes. She is excelling in so many ways with her learning. I can say that early intervention helped in figuring out her learning needs, processing, and communication. I don’t know why there’s a stigma when it comes to autism with learning. I have mixed feelings when others are surpised to hear her respond correctly and articulate to an education drill. It’s like because she has autism they had low expectations. She is a very confident learner. She focuses and watches others. She catches on in her way, and she displays what she learned. I’m excited to watch her prove others wrong in knocking down barriers.
Here are a few quick tips to help with your toddler who has autism:
- Identity their learning styles.
- Create a weekly and daily schedule of activities that is interactive with their participation in transitions.
- Find their interests, and create learning activities around it.
- Allow them to discover by introducing them to new things.
- Help them with their fine motor skills, sensory, and cognitive skills by researching age appropriate activities.
- Allow them to have imput in their way by encouraging communication.
- Find a support group online or other interactive ways they can meet other children like themselves so they can truly be “themselves” without the you all feeling on alert .