Entering children’s play worlds


To prompt positive behaviours from children with Autism we must support the child to build those behaviours.

This cannot be done unless a trusting relationship is made.

Making relationships with children on the spectrum may require you to think a bit differently. See the world from the child’s eyes so that you can experience it with them.

Strong relationships can be built when there is emphasis on the development of children’s play skills and their response and enjoyment to an educator’s emotions, feelings and tone of voice.

Educators need to be genuine in their interactions and be sure none over stimulate the child.

Really look to see what the child is seeing and what interests them by getting down to the child’s perspective and joining in their play.

When interacting it’s important to be attuned to a child’s state, motives and feelings. Educators do this by reading, acknowledging and responding sensitively to the child’s verbal and non-verbal cues that communicate, for example, an interest, a need, or an invitation to interact and play.

Teaching can be brought into every social exchange with children as long as you’re following a child’s lead and offering an exciting interaction. Children with Autism often learn better in small quick bursts.

Eventually social play will become fun and interesting because of your presence and the start of a rewarding, beautiful relationship can be built.

Entering play scenario

An educator worked with a child who was nonverbal, no eye contact, no communication, and many educators said “he has no interest and doesn’t show any play interest at all.” The child would walk around flapping their hands and when outside would crawl around on the floor exploring the ground and nature. He would eat things from the ground like sand and leaves during his explorations.

One-day the educator got down on the floor and crawled around and followed the child for over 20 minutes looking at what he was looking at, sharing quick eye contact and occasionally the child would become interested in the educator’s presence.

The educator soon discovered he was following the ants back to their home nest, crawling the same tracks as the ants. From that point the educator followed the ants. With prompting and lots of positive encouragement the child started to follow the educator and made eye contact. That was the “in” with the child. When we say “in” we mean finding the child’s strength and interest, just like the EYLF says.

You can only enter their world by being a part of their world, and if you start by imitating the child’s behaviour to see what they are interested in, you might be surprised. From this point we are able to build a relationship.

Connecting first, communicating second bit by bit, the educators learnt what interested the child, and then extended on his learning by focusing on this interest.

Try and imitate what children get excited about, get down to see it from their perspective and try and understand what it is they are focusing on.

Step into the world of a child with Autism and see what they are seeing.

How many times do we try and control children in an environment that is not suited to their learning or interest.


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