He doesn’t let me play with him. She is so scattered and wanders from one thing to the next so quickly. If these are some of the things you are thinking in regard to your child, I highly recommend the strategy of imitation.
The most common things caregivers and therapists want children to imitate is their speech, either to use words or the correct sounds in words. These are valuable goals, but I encourage us to think more about the potential of imitation as a perfect catalyst for engagement.
If your child is a little wanderer*, trying to get your child to share your attention on a shared toy (even if you think or know she loves it) is a true challenge for your child. However, you have the opportunity to help your child share their attention WITH you if you imitate what they are doing. It may feel silly to bang an object on the floor, jump with them, or imitate their vocalizations, but more often than not, a child tends to recognize that YOU are copying them and share attention with you. When you have their attention, you can then share your enjoyment that you are doing something with your child that she enjoys. If this goes well, keep copying them. THEN, once you are having a good time and sharing attention and engagement, you can layer on some language. You can say, “bang, bang” while you both bang a block on the floor. You can also try something new and see if they imitate you. You can move from banging the block on the floor to banging it on the wall or pick up another block and bang them together.
I have two really fun examples of young children enjoying the imitation game. You can see the joy and the tuning in, if only briefly, with the older participant. I love to see how these young children experiment and stick with the “game” for longer than may be expected for their ages.
Drum Imitation Game from www.autismgames.org.
*Come Be with Me Little Wanderer by Tahirih Bushey
– Tamara Pogin, M.A., CCC-SLP