If you are someone who cares for a child with autism, then you probably know that ABA Therapy, or Applied Behavior Analysis, is one of the best ways to treat children on the autism spectrum. This practice focuses on engaging children and helping them to improve in areas such as social skills, motor skills, and general life skills.
But ABA practices can’t always be done with an ABA therapist – sometimes, you need to bring these treatments into your and your child’s everyday life. When it comes to practicing in-home ABA therapy, there are a few valuable activities you can do with your child to help them grow and develop their skills and positive behavior.
Sitting In A Chair
Let’s start with the most simple activity. Something like sitting in a chair can seem basic, but it is a good starting point for in-home ABA therapy. Children with autism often find listening and focusing difficult, so sitting still in a chair can be a genuine challenge. Not to mention, it is going to be a necessary life skill as they get older, particularly at school.
Begin by asking your child to sit in a chair opposite you. Find fun and entertaining ways to keep them focused while they sit, such as tickling or making them laugh. Make sure to give them lots of praise and allow breaks when necessary. Over time, your goal should be to draw out these sitting sessions, stretching breaks further apart and using sit-down activities like drawing/painting and eating snacks to keep them seated for longer.
“Look At Me”
Like sitting down, this skill may also seem overly simplistic, but it is essential that your child be able to maintain eye contact so they can communicate properly with others.
The goal is to use visual stimuli to lead your child’s gaze to you and to eventually meet your eyes. You can blow bubbles, wear big novelty glasses, or hold a toy up to your eye-line to bring his eyes to yours. Start by holding eye contact for a second at a time, then work on holding eye contact for atleast 5 seconds.
What’s That Emotion
Processing emotions and identifying emotions in others can be a challenge for children with autism. This next activity can help them with their own emotional regulation, as well as connecting and communicating with others via emotional recognition.
You will need to print out cards with a range of different emotions, which can be represented by cartoon emojis. Place each emotion face down near your child and have them choose one card at a time. Encourage them to correctly identify each emotion. You can extend and deepen this activity by having conversations with your child about what each emotion means, and how they and others experience each emotion.
Which Room, Which Item?
This activity is a good way to get your child more familiar with household objects and their functions, which can improve their domestic skills and knowledge. Like the “what’s that emotion” game, you will need an illustrated set of cards or boards. This activity requires two sets of illustrations, one with all the different rooms in the house and the other set with pictures of different household objects and furniture.
Have your child match each object/furniture with their respective room in the house. When they choose an item, try to deepen the conversation by talking about its function (ie. “what do we use a sink for?” or “what does a vacuum do?” etc).
Identifying colors can be a little trickier for children with autism, so this activity will help them to recognize and memories the names of each color until they have eventually mastered it.
Pick out a number of objects (with a singular color) that your child is familiar with. This can include toys, crayons, objects of clothing, etc. Have them pick out one object and identify what color the object is. If your child is non-verbal, matching color cards might be necessary.
Make things a little more difficult by having your child choose one item and identify other objects that are the same color. Give them plenty of praise and positive reinforcement as they match colors correctly.
Learn The Body Parts
Help your child learn about their body either through speaking or singing. Give them prompts (“touch your ___” “Where is your___” etc) so they can vocally identify parts of their body and repeat the words to help them memorize them. You can do this by speaking, or make it a little more fun by turning it into a song, for example: “touch your ears, ears, ears” and “touch your nose, nose, nose.” Over time, as your child gets better at this you can even incorporate the “heads, shoulders, knees, and toes” song if you think your child is ready for it.
It’s important to know that you don’t always need fancy tools and equipment to work on ABA therapy with your child. These activities are helpful and effective ways for your child to improve their life skills and help to reduce more negative behaviors.
If you are wondering, “does my child need ABA therapy?” we recommend that you contact our team at Bolling ABA, either via phone or email. ABA therapy can be worked on at home, but meeting regularly with a qualified ABA therapist can be invaluable for your child’s development.