Discover how Attention Autism can support your Autistic child’s communication


“I’ve got something in my bag, in my bag, in my bag,

I’ve got something in my bag,

what it is”

You might be wondering why your Speech and Language Therapist is singing this song and then presenting items from a zipped-up bag. Let me take you through stage one of this evidence-based approach.

There are many aims of ‘bucket or bag time’. During stage one, you are simply engaging your child’s attention (whilst also exposing them to language). It’s important to remember that you are not forcing your child to say or do anything. The idea is that the items in the bag or bucket ‘offers an irresistible invitation to learn’ (Gina Davies, 2020).

You don’t need ‘special’ expensive toys. Use what you have at home. It might be that you have some bubbles, a wind-up toy. You might have some foil that you can roll up into a ball, or a balloon. Keep these items for ‘bucket time’. This means that your child is likely to be excited and motivated for the activity. The only stipulation is that these items must be highly motivating and must be the most exciting thing in the room. You’ll want to cover up any distractions.

So, you have your items and your opaque zipped bag, next you’ll want to put the items into the bag ensuring the zip is closed. The zip is important as it increases suspense and excitement as your child cannot see inside. You can also comment when unzipping ‘open bag’ using the signs ‘open’ + ‘bag’ to support your child’s understanding. Your Speech and Language Therapist can help with any Makaton signs that are unknown. The idea of this activity is that the item isn’t touched by your child. This can seem a little odd or feel “mean” but there is a reason for this: we want our child to look at us as well as the object or toy. As soon as we allow our child to touch and play with that toy their attention will go to the toy alone and we won’t get JOINT attention or engagement. This is the reason why we SHOW interesting things for a brief moment and then put these items back into the bag or bucket and out comes the next item. If your child wants to grab the toy and gets upset, then they may not be quite ready for this approach.

Next, we sing the song (as above) and unzip the bag taking out one of the items. The use of pausing is important. Pause after the song: does your child try to use gesture or sound? You can also use this opportunity to model short phrases, ideally one or two words such “it’s a spinner! Wow… so many colours”. After a couple of turns, repeat the process and pull out a different item. We tend not to sing the song each time for the next item. Just sing it at the beginning and then get on with producing the amazing, wonderful things in your bag. No hard and fast rules though, apart from “don’t let the child touch the toys”.

The biggest factor here is that you and your child enjoy the activity together. Have lots of fun!!

Keep up to date with our latest blogs to explore more stages of Attention Autism.

If you need speech, language or communication support or advice, I am always here to help.

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