I want to talk about one of the first therapies that was recommended to us, that helped Liam with his expressive language skills. I will try to post a therapy or teaching idea each week, now that I’ve got this blog going.
It’s called Floortime. “In Floortime, therapists and parents engage children through the activities each child enjoys. They enter the child’s games. They follow the child’s lead. Therapists teach parents how to direct their children into increasingly complex interactions. This process, called ‘opening and closing circles of communication,’ remains central to the Floortime approach” (https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/treatment/floortime).
“Floortime sessions emphasize back-and-forth play interactions. This establishes the foundation for shared attention (emphasis mine), engagement and problem solving….
For example, if the child is tapping a toy truck, the parent might tap a toy car in the same way. To encourage interaction, the parent might then put the car in front of the child’s truck or add language to the game” (https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/treatment/floortime).
Here is a fairly short video that shows what we specifically worked on – Circles of Communication. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0zpW5JDPbY
Now that you have the terms, you can ask your therapist or research more about whether this strategy will work for your family.
For us, it helped Liam understand that language was to be used for more than just naming his world. We could play together better using language. We could interact using language. The goal we were given was to help Liam work on “closing” that circle of communication. If he initiated a circle, we would respond to only what he had said. We would work to close the circle by having him respond back on the same topic one more time.
In fact, if we would be playing to “close a circle” of communication and he changed the subject, we were encouraged to “interrupt” his new circle to include us. For example, if he was playing by himself, after we were together – probably because he was done with this communicating stuff – we would bump our toy into his and initiate a new circle. The bumping was to get his attention so he had to “react.”
You need to know that in general, Liam is a highly compliant child. We are very fortunate that he wants to have friends, but just doesn’t know what do to with them once he has them. He also wants to please adults, a lot. So he tolerated this “bumping” into his world more so than another child might.
Eventually, he understood that he was supposed to respond back, which was our goal. He was still working on closing circles through 6th grade. His Speech and Language therapist game him the job one week to initiate a conversation with a new person. He had a bunch of memorized questions and responses to practice, depending upon what the person said to him. It was definitely “stiff” and awkward, but it helped him internalize things that people said to one another, especially in novel situations. Have you ever seen Sheldon try this out with a “friendship algorithm? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0xgjUhEG3U It reminds me of this learning.
To be honest, Liam will probably always be working to close those circles of communication. It’s hard! Floortime gave him tools to start to understand how this process worked.